PBL: Giving the students a voice and choice (Part 2)

This is the second part of my series reflecting on the implementation of my current Year 10 project.

My last project included an elaborate gaming design that was pretty much seriously confusing and ultimately distracted students from the actual project simply because they were rushing to finish ill-defined missions in order to earn XP and top a leadership ladder. Despite this I know my students learnt some really important lessons about team work and time management and they (surprisingly) did as well as their peers in the other non-PBL classes – my kids didn’t go backwards and that’s a big PLUS!

OK … so what am I up to? Oh yeah … my pre-project explicit teaching lessons – haha. One of the elements of PBL planning is idenitying what skills and/or content needs to be taught explicitly pre-project. In my current project students needed to be taught two model texts that represented the relationship between individual and authority. Unfortunately due to extra-curricula activities (work experience which is very important so I can’t get grumpy about it – lol) I only had seven students in my class each lesson. Despite this I soldiered on with the learning, knowing that all resources, discussions and reflections would be posted to edmodo for those absent students.

The focus for the four lessons was on the WHAT and HOW of two different text forms that represent ideas about individuals and authority – a short story ‘Hell is Other Parents’ by Jo Case and a short film ‘Tent City’ by Aldo Velasco. I have been reading Geoff Petty’s ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ and decided to use the ‘whole class interactive teaching’ method (it has an effect size of 0.81 – impressive given that an effect size of 1.0 ‘gives a two-grade leap’ for students). Basically I knew that a specific ‘skill’ needed to be taught before the project could begin. In this instance it was the ability to understand the purpose of a composer – to encourage a specific emotional, intellectual or imaginative response in the responder. After a teacher-led example on the board, students were given a scaffold (in this case a table) to complete with a partner. In an ideal world where time is not a constraint, students would have then shared this work with the class and teacher/peers would have provided immediate, timely feedback to correct any learning mis-steps. We kinda ran out of time so an important stage of this approach was missed … however we did return to it briefly the next lesson when the same approach was used again when the focus was on analysis – deconstructing HOW the composer manipulates certain responses from their responders.

My favourite activity for this pre-project explicit instruction was our edmodo backchannel whilst watching the film Tent City. My students had never heard of the term ‘backchannel’ before, although they did know about twitter – we’ve used it in class for a previous project! During our first viewing of the film students were encouraged to post short comments to our edmodo group focusing on what type of response they were having as they watched the film as well as trying to predict what might happen next. An example is below:

On the second viewing students were encouraged to post comments to our edmodo group focusing on what the film techniques they noticed that the film-maker was using. If they could, they were encouraged to comment on why they thought this technique was being used. Basically this is just like the types of notes students are typically expected to take whilst watching a film, however these notes are active and shared – students could comment on one another’s ideas. It was great – the class really enjoyed it!

At the end of these lessons students were set a task to write a paragraph on each text. So far none of them have completed it … but I didn’t actually ‘teach’ the skill of paragraph writing, so I can see why they’re hesitant. That’ll come in another week. I have patience.

Oh, and just realised this post hasn’t got too much to do with student voice and choice … Part 3 will though – I promise, lol!

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4 thoughts on “PBL: Giving the students a voice and choice (Part 2)

  1. Hi Bianca,
    I think I just deleted my reply before I could post it – if not, forgive the repetition. I love your blog and ran across it while looking for teacher commentary on the topic of student voice and choice. I’m wondering 3 things:
    – Did you ever write a “Part 3”?
    – May I use a lengthy quote from your post on “faux student-centered learning” in our PBL workshops for teachers? (I will of course attribute the source)
    – Have you written anything on the topic of teaching and assessing “21st century skills” (aka collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, project management, etc.) in PBL? Know of any other “voices from the tenches” on this topic or teacher-friendly articles?

    Thanks very much,
    John Larmer
    Buck institute for Education

    • Hi John πŸ™‚
      Of course you can quote from my blog – that’s what I write it for, so people can read it and hopefully find something useful in my experiences with teaching using the PBL method. I think I write all of the time about teaching 21st century skills – not so much explicitly assessing these although they are built into all of the projects my students do. The assessment always has these elements implied. I think if you looked at the work of Neil Fara and his Project REAL he might have some good stuff on that. Although it’s not 100% PBL. Um, and no – I didn’t write Part 3 😦
      Let me know if you would like me to write a post on something in particular for you.
      Bianca

      • Thanks Bianca,
        Let me tell you what I’m looking for, then you can decide whether you’d like to write something, or tell me where I might look.
        For our basic PBL workshops we’d like to have teachers discuss two topics: how to include student voice & choice in a variety of ways in projects, and how to teach and assess 21st century skills. We’d like to base the discussion on pieces of text that either illustrate the possibilities or the pitfalls.

      • Hi John πŸ™‚
        I actually have been planning a post on both of these – I will also have a think about ppl who have already covered this in other posts.
        Keep checking my blog over the next week and you will hopefully see what you’re after, lol!

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