I have found PBL Starter Kit to be a great resource for project based learning. From reading each chapter I have learned how exactly to plan and implement a PBL in my own classroom. Several weeks ago I took what I read in the first few chapters of this book and used that knowledge to develop my own PBL. I think that planning a PBL definitely takes a lot of work, but in order for PBLs to be effective, teachers need to know how to manage that project from start to finish.
This chapter stresses the importance of having the right classroom culture for a project. Since I do not have my own classroom, I have been using a ninth grade English class to implement my own PBL. I have been lucky enough to be working in a classroom where the culture is perfect for project based learning. The students in this class know that they can ask questions, voice their opinions, and discuss their thoughts. They are often probed to think deeper about topics, and relate what they learn to themselves and the real world. Coming into this type of classroom culture has made implementing my PBL easy. If a climate similar to this one is not evident in a classroom, project based learning may not occur. How can we get all teachers to develop this type of environment for their students?
“Managing Your Project” gives good tips for familiarizing students with the project’s requirements while simultaneously allowing students to ask questions and discuss their thoughts on the project. I know that I had a tough time introducing the whole project to the students, because I did not want to overwhelm them. I also was not able to identify specific resources for the project, nor did I have time for the students to meet in groups. If I had been more prepared in supplying resources for the students and assigning them their groups, there would have been less confusion. Although it took some time to familiarize the students to the topic, I know what I need to change when I implement another project similar to this one in the future.
I also liked how this chapter touched upon the importance of monitoring student groups. It is important to allow the students to work in their groups with limited teacher guidance, but there has to be some accountability. In my PBL, the students have only met in their groups a few times. During their meeting times I have talked with each group to see what place they are at, and what tasks they need to complete in the future. I do think I have been helpful when talking to my student groups, but I think I could provide more guidance or make sure they know that they are required to be aware of their progress in the project. Next week when I work with my students again I will be sure to spend more time with each group. I may even ask each group to complete a work plan or task list, so that we all know what needs to get done.
Another topic of this chapter that I thought was interesting was the need for the teacher to ask questions following a presentation. To make sure students thoroughly understand a concept, they can be asked to restate what they present in different ways. Students can also be asked questions that require them to think about their topic in new ways and how that topic applies to other areas. I think that by asking these questions students will be forced to critically examine their knowledge of a concept and their ability to apply what they already know to different situations.