Friday, March 20, 2009

Just another EDIM502 blog, really it is nothing, really nothing...

So, the question of the week is what pedagogical rationale is there for using a Problem Based Learning method? My answer has to be that it addresses the issues of metacognition, multiple intelligences and differentiated learning styles, with the aim that the students become life long learners.

My curriculum states that I must engage the students in metacognition. To quote the program of studies “Essentially, metacognition involves reflection, critical awareness and analysis, monitoring, and reinvention.” This most certainly fits the initial research I have undertaken as to the constructivist approach described in the edutopia website. The whole idea of students reflecting on what has worked, and just as importantly, what has not worked, is a vital component of my teaching philosophy. The ability to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes is not just good teaching practice, it is a skill much needed after High School ends. A summative examination with no chance for feedback gains the student very little, robing them of an opportunity to acquire important real-world based knowledge

Other classmates have already pointed out the obvious pedagogical tie-in with Gardner's multiple intelligences. This is a driving force with our Curriculum and Instruction Department, and a foundation of the Unit by Design template we, as a division, are encouraged to incorporate into all our unit planning. I really see the value of introducing this concept to my students, and watching them begin to reflect upon who they are and what really matters to them. Differentiated learning styles means that each student can direct the planning of the PBL to better suit their own needs, be they auditory, visual or tactile/kinesthetic. I have had students begin a project, one where they are to teach a concept to other classmates, by polling the group as to their preferred method of learning. Powerful use of thinking I would say. These two approaches really do maximize the chances that the student will have a better than average chance of constructing meaning from the project.

One of the most important goals of education in this century has to be desire to have all students become life long learners. This means taking what they have previously learned and using that repository of information to tackle all problems thrown at them in their chosen areas of employment. The fact that students have the chance to leave High School having been engaged in learning that they planned, as well as being exposed to reflective practises that illuminate who they are, must certainly give them the confidence that they can continue to grow and prosper regardless of where life takes them.

While the PBL model of instruction cannot be used for all types of learning situations, when used properly it can be an effective method of instruction for achieving Wiggins and McTighe's three fundamental goals of education: the acquiring of important information and skills, making meaning of the content and transfering of that knowledge to new situations.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You say Tomato, I say Tomato..oh, wait a minute here..

I thought going into this class that I would most likely emerge a fan of the PBL model of instruction. After reading the required three articles, I began to understand that I may already be a huge supporter of this teaching method. Indeed, the concepts of student choice and the importance of continuous assessment bare a striking resemblance to the idea I know as Rich Assessment Projects.

The idea of giving students a choice in the direction that an assignment may take is a very empowering presence in a classroom. True, it can also be terrifying to begin with, especially for the linear, 'just tell me what I have to do to get an A' student. However, once these students understand that they can design the project to suit their leaning style, the fear seems to dissipate. I really like the openness of designing units with a clear end point in mind but with built in flexibility as to how we, as a group 'get there'. I have found that this approach has lead us as learners to places we never envisioned ourselves going, as the questions raised or the interests sparked through research takes the project in an entirely new and unexpected yet productive path.

This ability to optimize student interest also manifest itself in the aspect of feedback. I am certain that a carefully phrased question that provides an opportunity for the student to reflect upon their own knowledge is a key component of the student driven project. I am amazed at the previous learning that is employed when a student begins to build a project,encounters difficulty and solves the issue by drawing upon a set of skills previously learned. I must mention at this juncture that I teach Senior High English Language Arts grades ten through twelve. This is a huge advantage, as I am able to begin introducing content and concepts to the tens with the understanding that I will be able to incorporate this 'previous knowledge' into my senior assignments. Feedback can also occur at any stage of the project and this has proven to be very constructive, as students are able to learn as the project progresses,as opposed to the traditional method of deliver content and then give a summative final exam. These tests usually only supply a 'mark', rather than a break down of areas of strength and areas that may need improvement. Additionally, with a summative exam, learning seems to end, rather than be a continuous act. With a Rich Assessment Project, the student is being consistently monitored and receives formative assessment at all stages, from initial design through to completion.

As confidant as I may sound about my understanding of the intricacies of Project Based Learning, I must confess that I have many questions yet to be answered. How can I incorporate more of the real world into my projects? The question also has arisen as to whether the English Language Arts curriculum can be adapted to answer real life problems as easily as the math or science subject areas seem to be able to do. Is it easier to do a PBL at a lower grade level? It appears perhaps so, as the ability to blend subject areas together in a project can be done in Division 1 and 2 but becomes almost impossible in Division 4. Is a Rich Assessment Project really the same as Project Based Learning?

Tomato, Tomato? Or apples and oranges? I look forward the coming weeks and the learning that I am positive will occur!



Sunday, March 8, 2009

Project Based Learning for the Easily Distracted English Teacher

So, I am learning that to blog takes time for me, perhaps more than for others. I do find that I am consistently thinking of thinks that I want to say, but somehow...

Anyway, this blog is about the concept of PBL, or Project Based Learning. I am not sure if what I have been doing is really PBL or not, but am very excited to learn what the ins and outs of this teaching method are. I hope that by the end of the grad class I will have grown enough to be more than just dangerous...

I am quite concerned that I may have some difficulties in finding a project that satisfies the requirements of the class and meet my needs in an English High School classroom. The initial reading that I have done indicates that the end result should answer a question, solve a problem or create a solution to a difficulty. I may, most likely am, wrong on this count, but more than willing to continue to explore the concept of PBL.

I am now in search of online examples that others are willing to share of their work with PBL in the English area. I am not a creative individual,but one that can adopt or mashup other's ideas into something that can be used in my classroom. On that note, I really enjoyed this Larry Lessig Video that just came across my T'deck...perhaps this helps eplain why I have trouble writing blogs...but I digress...

Some can come up with the ideas, others can put them into use...

The quest for knowledge continues...