Project Based Learning: What Have You Learned from Anthony Capps and Dr. Strange?
From the beginning of the discussion there were many things to learn but certain things that I picked up on as crucial for success. Throughout the discussion and especially toward the end, there were some things (well one in particular) that I thought I must question for several reasons as you will see below. This post will give a brief synopsis of what I learned from the video and in some sense, in this class. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the reading. I sincerely hope you will learn something too!
Anthony gave these tips when working on Project Based Learning (PBL) and I will state why I think they are important.
1. Chunk Assignments (for check-in points) - He stated that it makes the assignment easier to digest and also breaks it down into what I will call achievable tasks. I agree with this totally, but for young children, it is manageable and will hold their attention. If something takes too long they will disengage and thus stop participating.
2. Make sure assignment engages students - Not only do you want the assignment to engage your students, you want your students to remain engaged. This is how #1 and #2 really work together. Find something engaging for the students to do and then break it up to make sure they remain engaged.
3. Make sure students have options - When giving students a project to work on, make sure it isn't one dimensional, allow them to explore using the creativity that lies within all of us. Give them a voice and that voice will resound like something you've never experienced before.
4. It is poor planning on behalf of the teacher when you deal with situations where students can't do the things listed above - Based on all 4 speaking points, I believe this is the one where teachers can learn the most. It is not the students fault if they aren't doing what is expected. As teachers, we will make mistakes! We will do thing wrong! It is up to us to learn from our mistakes and do it better the next time. So, don't punish the kids because of your poor planning. Try to do things again in a different way and then maybe you will see the results you expected.
Anthony also gave these tips. To get teachers on board with PBL they need to pace themselves and not try to accomplish everything all at once. He also stated that teachers need to pick a tool, decide you are going to use it and become proficient at it before you move on to the next tool. He also stated that you don't have to teach technology, you just have to use it in front of your students and they will figure out how to use it. I say, they were born in this technological age, so they will get it before we do. Let them fly, let them go, they will be fine! He stated that the kids need to feel free to ask other kids for help with the tools and stay on task with the content. They will do this and because of this freedom and them understanding each other, sorry teachers, the students will learn far more from their classmates than we could ever teach them. This is because they understand each other and relate better than an adult can relate to a child. Don't be disappointed though, be encouraged that they are learning and figure out what you can do to help them learn more. When picking tools, Anthony stated that teachers should pick different tools each week and let the students use these tools in the future. Isn't this what learning is all about? Being able to know when to use what you have learned and use it properly and successfully? He mentioned that there were 8 aspects of PBL and stated that as a teacher, you should choose one and work on it that week, switch each week and teach the students the components of PBL that way, start at the beginning of the year and get the students to understand PBL before you expect them to use PBL. This is an example of chunking in the simplest way. You can always apply what you have learned as a teacher to situations in the future and you want your students to be able to do the same. Explain the 8 aspects of PBL in chunks and the students will remember what they are and apply them as needed.
Dr. Strange and Anthony kind of mentioned strategies on: How can I become a better instructor? One way, which is probably the most important, is to learn from your mistakes. Anthony stated that his classroom is much less fun without PBL and the students noticed that they weren't doing PBL at the moment. They love and need that freedom, that independence to grow so they can make it in the future. So, what happens when kids move to the next grade? At Anthony's school, it has been because it has to be a school initiative otherwise it may not work. If the students are used to PBL and you want to transition back to a traditionally boring classroom, they will feel (for lack of a better word) almost inadequate. The tools they have learned they can no longer use. They want to do things one way but everything has to be the teacher’s way. Let's not go back to that and ruined what the students have already worked so hard to achieve. For this to happen though, teachers need to be trained thoroughly and properly in PBL. According to Anthony, after teachers have been trained they need to share what they have learned with others in their schools. The administration and teachers need to blanket their campus with PBL research after starting with a pocket of teachers that wants to use PBL. They need to be constantly researching and have new research tools available for teachers to learn. These are things that need to be done, according to Mr. Capps to ensure success with PBL. This way, students come in with a toolbox of knowledge and puts pressure on teachers to use these tools. If the teachers are not prepared they will not succeed with PBL as the students will undoubtedly know more than they and will be teaching them.
Anthony brought up this very important point about parents. He stated that parents have questions about PBL because they are concerned about grades. Anthony stated that the grades reflect skills needed for growth and some skills are harder for some students even if they received all A's before. He stated that we are teaching kids to think as adults. They are solving real world problems. But is this really what we want our elementary kids doing? I want my child to develop critical thinking skills but at what costs? Will they quickly lose their youth? These are some concerns I have as well as others that I am sure other parents have as well. With grades and testing and test scores being such a vital part of a child's future are we not hurting them by switching them to PBL when they are used to and are comfortable with the old way of doing things? How do we change things in the right way without doing too much damage. I don't want a child grown at age 8. They should still be exploring and thinking like a kid. Mr. Capps states that the parents are saying their kids have never been more engaged and they are excited about coming to school. I guess grades will improve because of this but what else will happen in the future? I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Please feel free to enlighten me!