Since my last post, our team has continued on its journey to prepare for September with our first installation of learner-centered Project-based Learning (PBL). The last couple of months have meant planning with the support of LRSD instructional coordinators, something that has looked different for each group.
Our first team of Grades 5 and 6 teachers met with Robin Plouffe-Hingley in May for Round 1 of their learning. They began the session by grouping curricular outcomes in Science and Social Studies to come up with common themes that they might want to delve into with their students. From here, they developed their ‘Big Ideas’…in other words, specific learning that they wanted to ensure that their students grasped when in PBL-mode. They then came up with project ideas that would meet our students’ multiple levels of intelligence as they pertained to these ‘Big Ideas’. This took a half-day of collaboration.
(An example of completed work by a Grade 2/3 team that was working along with us…easier to read than our copy!)
In the meantime, our Grades 7 and 8 team went at this in a different way. They chose their big themes, based on subjects in the Grade 8 curriculum, with the help of Derek Acorn, our Teacher-Librarian. They then came up with their driving questions that they felt would capture the interest of their students. This was followed by breaking down the curricular objectives into each category to ensure that they would be covering those essential learning outcomes.
Takeaway: Each method was different, but neither method was incorrect, nor was one better than the other. The first tour with the Grades 5/6 teachers involved principles from the Universal Design for Learning model to ensure that curricular outcomes were being met. This did not mean that the Grades 7/8 team was wrong in proceeding the way that they did. What we learned is that each team has to do what works for them in order to fully wrap their brains around the process.
Our next step was to have both our Grades 5/6 and our 7/8 teams working together with Robin and her partners. This time around, they began by sharing their journeys so far with each other. Then, breaking off into their respective teams, our Grades 7/8 teachers went over their curricular outcomes groupings to pick out key words and then develop their Big Ideas to support student learning with each theme. Then, they tweaked their essential driving questions based on these ideas, and came up with possible projects that would support student learning.
While they were working on this, the Grades 5/6 teachers reviewed their Big Ideas, pulling out key words. They used these words to develop their essential driving questions for each theme. They then came up with other ideas that would work as projects and learning activities for these themes.
Takeaway: The options and learning opportunities are endless, but this is a huge learning curve for teaching staff. Why? Because everybody is at a different stage in their own learning, and that’s okay.
As a collective group, the teams then came together to look at assessment needs and triangulation of evidence. With Robin’s support, they were better able to understand what their assessments could look like so that they could respond to the required report card evaluations. Designing these rubrics will take time, but with a collaborative approach, it will certainly be less daunting. At the same time, formative pieces are equally as important, and need to be planned for to ensure that students have that opportunity to grow.
Takeaway: Have I mentioned that designing quality rubrics to meet the needs of a PBL approach will take time, but once in place, will be game-changers. At the same time, ensuring that teachers are providing ongoing and timely formative assessments is crucial to supporting a student’s growth.
Over the next few months, while the teams move forward with their planning, our teacher-librarian, Derek Acorn, will be developing co-teaching lessons that will focus on different pieces that students will need to learn in order to thrive in a PBL environment. He will support the team in infusing these ideas into the students’ learning within short-lived PBL assignments, as they get their feet wet with this idea in September and October. This will provide some much-needed support to our teachers, as they weren’t sure how to go about presenting this to their students, given that this is new to everybody here.
Takeaway: Collaboration is key to all things here!
Now our team is working to develop their first round of themes for their PBL world. Stay tuned!