Saturday, January 30, 2010

Isn't It Possible to Combine Project/Problem/Inquiry-Based Learning into One?

I have continued my research to try and gain a better understanding of project-based Learning and I came upon this Voicethread that separately defined project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based research. After carefully reading the definitions, I started to wonder if it was possible to be able to conduct research that was a combination of all three.

I feel that the students are definitely involved with project-based learning since they are covering a real world topic of space missions and aviation. They have been completely responsible for their own learning and decision-making as they have written and chosen their guiding question for research. They are currently in the process of researching and will ultimately come up with an end product that they will present to their classmates as well as another school who we are collaborating with.

Throughout this project, the boys have been made aware of the necessity to independently find a problem regarding their topic that they are to ultitimately resolve. This would fall under the category of Problem-based Learning, for they are following steps to problem solve by writing a hypothesis, formulating more direct questions to guide their research, and looking for ways to solve their problem as they are fully aware of many possible solutions. In the end, they will present their findings to their peers as they demonstrate an understanding of the whole problem-solving process.

Inquiry-Based Learning involves the boys formulating their own questions, thinking critically, and problem-solving. They have been guided throughout this process, but have been given the opportunity to make their own choices. They are seeing the relevance of the application of grammar as they take notice of how it affects the way messages are conveyed as they reflect on their learning through many written responses. The boys are also making global connections as they solve real-world problems that are taking place outside of the classroom.

After researching, I found a rubric that covered some of the criteria that I have mentioned, and I was able to tweek it to fully meet the entire expectations of what the boys are to learn throughout this project. I thought that it was important to incorporate technology not only in their research but also in the presentation of the end product. I have never seen the boys so motivated and eager to partake in an assignment as they have been throughout this whole proecss.

Here's another great Voicethread that is worth checking out!
Check out this blog for getting started with PBL.
Here's another great blog!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PBL: What I Know About Space and What I Want to Learn

Today we went over the project-based learning rubric that will be used as a summative assessment of the students' project. After the criteria was discussed and questions answered, the boys began using their problem-solving guide to record their guiding question. As they began reflecting on what they already know about their topic and what they want to learn, I recorded their conversations. It was pretty amazing to see them so motivated and enthusiastic about this project!

Untitled from kim trefz on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Student Reflection: Problem Finding

Untitled from kim trefz on Vimeo.

As we are still brainstorming for our project and refining our guiding questions, the boys have been writing reflections in response to videos and articles they have read. I want them to get in the habit of thinking about finding problems that they would like to further investigate before they problem solve. Because this is student-directed, I want the boys to search for what interests them so they will be highly motivated and more willing to push through the difficult challenges they will face through this entire process.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Guiding Question for PBL

I have done extensive research on PBL and have found a fabulous site that offers many resources such as videos, articles, helpful downloads, etc. from Buck Institute for Education: Project Based Learning for the 21st Century. I have had my boys to brainstorm possible questions that could serve as a guiding or driving question for further investigation of this space mission/aviation project. The decision to use a broader question vs. a narrow one would allow the boys to not be limited in their research but could go in an unexpected direction according to the questions formulated. I am not exactly sure if I am making the right decision for 5th graders, but I did find an excellent web site that clearly defines what a driving/guiding question should look like.

Effective Driving Questions:

Driving questions are also called essential questions, project questions, and umbrella questions. Effective driving questions include the following features:

1. Are open-ended. Driving questions lead to debate and discussion, and therefore, are motivating to students.

2. Are objective. Driving questions do not imply whether something is good or bad, better or worse.

3. Focus and drive the project. Students use the question as a springboard to formulate their own questions. All learning and research in the project are geared toward answering the driving question.

4. Focus on key understandings. Generally each project will have about five overarching ideas; the driving question subsumes all of them.

5. Are answerable. With diligence and dedication, students are able to answer the driving question. While it should not be an easy process, it should be manageable.

6. Require research, investigation, and reflection. Driving questions may have yes-or-no answers; however, your students need to support their answers with the research and knowledge they have acquired throughout the project.

7. Call on a student's previous knowledge and help students apply their learning to new situations.

8. Link basic skills and concepts to students' lives and the real world. Students are more motivated and involved when the topic they are studying is relevant to their lives and to the real world.

9. Integrate standards from a variety of disciplines. Interdisciplinary lesson plans promote teamwork among colleagues and encourage students to make connections between disciplines.

10. Encourage multiple approaches to problem solving. Driving questions allow for more than one way to solve a problem and express the solution.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 1 of PBL: On a Mission

Today was the beginning of our project/problem-based learning where I began by sharing with my students about entering a realm of the unknown to let them know that I am a risk-taker as well as a learner. It is so important to create an atmosphere of having a growth mindset and modeling for the students that I am not afraid of failing. Does that lessen the uncomfortable and uncertain feeling that I have about what lies ahead? Absolutely not! However, I will proceed with only a positive frame of mind as we all embark on a new adventure!

At the beginning of each class, I briefly defined project-based learning as a project that is student-directed. This is an opportunity where they will discover answers to questions through real world investigations. I asked them to brainstorm what they imagined their roles to be during this process, and they shared the following responses:

team players
collaborative workers
providers of feedback
technology users
recorders of information
risk takers
problem solvers
decision makers

I then asked them to activate prior knowledge by sharing the top ten reasons for going to space as well as the drawbacks from it. As they shared their answers, I typed them on our Wiki to gather all of their brainstorming ideas. They ended class by writing a reflection that had them thinking about deciding when risks were worth taking and when they weren't.

Throughout this project, I will be integrating the required grammar and writing skills for 5th grade English and I am using the science curriculum as the topic for the project. The students will apply pronouns: personal, indefinite, interrogative, demonstrative, reflexive, as well as pronoun/antecedent agreement. The writing skills that they will be strengthening will involve adding strong supports to the claims they make. All of this will done in the context of their writing as they work toward the completion of their project.

The next step will include the viewing of various videos and the reading of articles regarding space flight and space missions. They will record questions that they would like to further investigate, and after compiling the results, a final list of guiding questions will be posted from which students will choose. They will be grouped according to interests and they will find a problem to solve.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On a Mission with Project-Based Learning

My fifth grade students are beginning a project on space missions and aviation. I have been reading a book called Making Learning Whole written by David Perkins. He uses the metaphor of playing the game of baseball as he relates it to effectively teaching for understanding. He makes a valid point when he talks about baseball players going beyond practice of pitching or batting but being part of a team, running bases, and applying what they have practiced. Players don't just stop there; they play the whole game. What seems to be occurring in many classrooms is the students aren't being led beyond practice to understand how the whole game is played. They practice the skills in isolation but never really see the relevance of how it is important in their lives. Project-based learning allows the students to discover answers to their questions through real world investigation. It is so important for our students to be problem solvers and decision makers. Incorporating skills along the way allows them to see the purpose and function of how they apply in their lives.

I decided to begin with the science curriculum and integrate the grammar and writing skills that need to be covered. I have posted the project on our class wiki where a lot of the work will be a collaborative effort. Independent reflections and essay writing will be expected as well.

The project will be guided by the questions that the students ask about space missions and aviation. There will be several authentic activities along the way to promote critical and creative thinking. I am just excited by the possibilities of the project since there are so many directions it can take, but the goal is for the students to play the whole game for learning.