When you are engaged in project-based learning, a good project often feels like a journey. It has a timeline with a clear start and endpoints. There is a sense of anticipation when students and teachers embark on an investigative experience together.
Planning is a good idea, however, we know that there may be surprises and future trips that will take us to places we have not imagined. In the end, we will have created lasting memories of our shared PBL adventure.
At the ISTE Virtual Conference, colleague Jane Krauss and I discussed cues to help you make the most of the learning opportunities that PBL offers. Just as road signs help you get where you want to go, the project indicators continue to learn in the course so that students come to a deeper understanding of the material. Here are some signs to help guide your PBL journey:
This is a sign that you and your students must come across multiple times during a project. It is not enough to provide feedback at the end when students share their final products. Instead, plan for feedback opportunities throughout the project arc.
How is the feedback in PBL? The tools for feedback can vary widely, from low-tech (teacher observations, team registrations, or exit tickets at the end of class) to technology (blog comments or video conferencing with content experts). Feedback can come from peers and teachers, from “outsiders,” such as community members, or from self-assessments.
Regardless of what form the feedback takes, you make sure it is timely, specific, and useful. Include time in your project calendar so students can use feedback to improve their products.
Think as the experts do my paper.
Create opportunities for students to assume the role of expert and apply specific problem-solving strategies. During a project that involves interpreting the past, for example, students will need to look through the lens of a historian. For a project that involves developing events, they may have to think like journalists. Other projects may benefit from knowing how to use the scientific method or being able to analyze data through computational thinking or statistics.
At the planning stage, consider the expert roles that may be required. Then think about how you will help students understand those roles and the specific thinking strategies that accompany them. If you’re not sure how an ethicist, botanist, technologist, or popular historian thinks of the world, think about how you might get expert advice outside of the classroom.
The Design thinking concept has started to be used strongly, a couple of years ago, in problem-solving, business model development, strategic planning, and idea development; more and more companies require the use of this concept. Although some forums or articles indicate general information, the objective of the study was to describe the methodology and tools to be used in its application. The proposal is relevant in the field of student, entrepreneur, and business learning, which exposes various tools that due to their characteristics can be widely used and allow for the development of user-centered innovations.
Writing is both a social and a cognitive process. In the world outside of school, people write to communicate with an audience, drawing on their knowledge of content and writing, strategies for planning and reviewing, and basic writing techniques. In a previous post, I discussed the issues of writing development and disabilities within the framework of five components:
- the social context in which it is written
- the writer’s knowledge
- the planning process
- text production
- evaluation and review
In this article, I will describe the components for effective writing instruction, to help parents evaluate the quality of instruction in their child’s school. The goals of good writing instruction for students with disabilities are the same as for any student. All students should develop their knowledge of the purpose and ways of writing, basic writing techniques, strategies for planning and evaluating their work, and motivation. However, struggling writers need more support and more intensive and explicit teaching on techniques and strategies.
A high-quality writing program will provide a balance between opportunities for a child to write something important to him and receive explicit instruction on the techniques and strategies they need to become competent writers. Developing self-regulation strategies and the motivation to write independently are also important. The writing classroom must provide:
- a context for routine and meaningful writing
- teaching calligraphy, spelling, and sentence construction as needed
- teaching strategies for planning, revising, and self-regulation during the writing process
- attention to the development of motivation for writing
- the use of assistive technology to write (this important topic will be covered in another article)
A context for routine and meaningful writing
The foundation of an effective program sits on the opportunity to write frequently about meaningful topics, targeted to an audience, and with purpose. This principle is at the heart of the “writing shop” approach that has been used for the past 20 years 1. When children have time to write, they think their writing homework is important and they get answers about what they write from their peers, teachers, and others, they are motivated to write and to understand the purpose and value of writing.
For example, think of the contrast between learning to write persuasively, to master the five-paragraph format of an essay, and learning to write persuasively to support a point of view in a social studies debate. Or consider the difference between writing a story that only the teacher reads and assesses, or reading your story to your classmates, or publishing it in a class magazine for parents.
Writing with a real purpose makes writing that much more enjoyable. Also, it helps students understand the reasons behind various types of writing. For example, they learn that persuasive writing must take into account possible objections from the reader. And the opportunity to read these stories to the class gives them an immediate opportunity to see what aspects make them entertaining.
For teachers, it is sometimes difficult to design opportunities for students to publish and share what they write with audiences. In general, the most common audience is classmates, always available to respond in peer talks or reading classes. Many teachers allow students to create class magazines or write library books. Some teachers invite parents and others to readings or work meetings, encourage children to write letters to various audiences. Today, the Internet provides a new variety of audiences. Many Internet sites publish children’s work or support collaboration on research projects between different classes.
In addition to writing for specific audiences, writing can be more meaningful if it connects with other areas of the study program. Writing as part of research projects in science and social studies shows children how writing about a topic can enhance their learning. When you share your work with others, you create a model of communication in the learning community, an important use of writing in the adult world.
Parents can provide important support in this aspect of writing by encouraging children to write at home. Think of all the ways you use writing, to create shopping lists, write thank you notes, send an email, get your child involved in those activities.
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