by John Larmer
Editor in Chief
Dec. 5-9, 2016
Each Friday we post a list of articles, blog posts, and other resources we’ve run across that relate to Project Based Learning.
Here’s what we liked this week:
Inquiry-Based Instruction and PISA
First the bad news: as you may have heard, the performance of U.S. students on the recent PISA test was disappointing. More (apparent) bad news: students in all countries who received inquiry-based instruction in science did worse than students in classrooms using teacher-directed instruction. But there’s good news that explains the data: turns out inquiry is used more often in schools around the world serving disadvantaged students, which typically correlates with lower test scores. And, the author points out, who knows how good the quality of instruction was—”inquiry” could have just meant “hands-on science” to keep lower-achieving students engaged, and it would not meet BIE’s Gold Standard for PBL.
Burn Your Podium (and Other Hacks)
To increase student engagement, teacher/blogger Jay Meadows advocates for relying less on lecture as the dominant pedagogy, and makes several PBL-aligned suggestions, including collaboration in small groups, student choice, and greater authenticity in the work students do.
Preparing Our Students to Be Civically Powerful
Here’s an awesome idea for these troubled times: ASCD is announcing a new “civic engagement design challenge,” a ten-week project in partnership with IDEO’s Teacher’s Guild.
Project-Based Learning and Design-Focused Projects to Motivate Secondary Mathematics Students
Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning
Teacher and researcher Kelly W. Remijan reports on a study done at O’Fallon Township High School in Illinois. She provides insight on how “design focused projects can be perceived to enhance student motivation within the mathematics classroom” and describes four sample projects—all of which are very authentic, with community connections. Example: geometry students design a new fire station for their city, working with local architects.
The Formative Five
Author Thomas R. Hoerr in this new book from ASCD has identified five “success skills” (the same term BIE uses for 21st century skills/4 Cs, etc.) that schools should teach: empathy, self-control, integrity, embracing diversity, and grit. I’ve only read the Introduction so I don’t know if he recommends PBL specifically, but he does mention constructivism and experiential activities, and “doing, reflecting, and working collaboratively.”
Why Dewey Needs Freire, and Vice Versa: A Call for Critical Deeper Learning
Sarah Fine, a visiting scholar at High Tech High, calls for a blend of deeper learning (and by implication PBL) and critical pedagogy. She points out that while the curriculum content might be powerful in urban schools teaching critical perspectives on racism and classism, the instructional routine of “read-think-discuss-write” is not—so more PBL is needed there. But on the other hand, she says, “deeper learning is not yet fully ‘woke.’ And now, more than ever, it needs to be.”
4 Key Elements of 21st Century Classroom Design
With the growth in schools today of personalized learning and PBL, this post recommends classrooms have flexible layouts, different furniture (not traditional desks), tech integration, and “a light-filled environment.”
Collaboration: A Guide on What NOT to Do With Your Team
This post was written by a high school student reflecting on a recent Epic Movie project, who offers three pieces of practical advice for better collaboration, gained from what sounds like hard-won experience. I like #2 especially: “Never not know what you’re supposed to be doing during work time.”