Final Reflections of Project Based Learning

Our project is winding down and the link is attached here. This has been an amazing experience for me. Initially, when the class began, I was a little put off by the thought we would be responsible for our own learning. I felt considering the fees and what I was paying (or had paid through military service), I should be getting very focused instruction. I expected that I would not gain a great deal, or if I did, it would be in spite of the lack of visible instruction.

Shortly after beginning the course, we were given the opportunity to join into small groups or do the project on our own. Still not fully vested and unsure of what the composition of my group would be, I moved ahead. Boy, did I ever hit jackpot. I joined a great group of minds.

We all seemed to get excited about the project. As a result, we experience a PBL while creating a PBL. Certainly, this creation was not easy. We spent a great deal of time with each other every Monday night. Through the week, we communicated by text and email. However, the time flew by. It just did not seem laborious. However, I am not living on the east coast, as one of my cohorts, so the few really late nights we had might have taken a steeper toll on him. Considering how we all were energized each time we added a layer, I am not certain I would have had that energy off which to feed if I built a PBL on my own. In hindsight, having a group to work with was the greatest windfall for me in this course.

I would have liked to witness more PBL experiences incorporating Differentiated Learning. In my experience with students with learning differences, talking about it, reading about it and actually incorporating students in the mix are three very different things. I do understand the literature; I would just like to see it in practice.

I will take away a greater respect for use of Project Based Learning and Habit of Mind to create a culture shift. I look forward to the opportunity to help mentor teachers weave PBL into their coursework to make teaching and learning a collaborative experience for all.

Self evaluation of our PBL follows:.

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Scaffolding – Week 5 Reflection -542

This particular lesson this week was Planning and Preparing with an emphasis on scaffolding our learners. As we clarified where we wanted to end, we analyzed what it would take to get our students there. We wanted to provide the students a vision into our collective passions. Coming from our separate backgrounds, we listened to one another and added pieces to the whole.

One of our strengths is our difference. Viewing from our various experiences, we explored reaching all learners. One of my cohorts is a former teacher and now in IT and a Google Docs trainer. The other, also in IT, is our Spanish, sound and technical specialist. My background is both in teaching Theater and students with learning differences.

So on we went, detailing the specifics we would need in our Teaching and Learning Guide and we discovered areas that contained gaps in reaching our students. Rather than filling with wasted space documents and time, we challenged each other to talk out how to support our students. We looked to reduce assumptions we made about teaching high school students.

Jamie McKenzie addresses that “scaffolding clarifies purpose” (1999) as one of her eight characteristics. Our entry event is designed to evoke emotions since it centers around two unlikely friends during the Holocaust. Through underscoring innocence of the children of the world, even in the midst of great cruelty and prejudice, we start them caring about the future of their world and HOW they should make a difference.

At each level of this project we provide them structure and guidance to keep them focused on their mission. Starting at the end, we have worked backward leaving them materials they will need to build a road to where we want them to arrive. Our assessments are clear as they can be prior to implementation, so our charges know clearly our expectations. We have provided them a class glossary, adding some words we find essential to the information gathering, to use with their class and with their cohorts. We collected the best websites to get them started and information to analyze web information of their own choosing. We have provided them a tutorial on using VoiceThread and two opportunities to use it in the course of nine weeks. The use of Google Docs will encourage Peer editing and contributions so all feel included and heard. Adding a cohort element integrates curriculum and offers written and spoken immersion while providing direct contact with students halfway around the globe as they explore global issues.

I would love to test this PBL. I feel we have built a strong superstructure around their site of exploration and creation. I feel like we addressed all eight of the characteristics McKenzie addressed. All that remains will be the editing and revision that can only take place after a test with high school students.

Reference:

McKenzie, J. (1999). Scaffolding for success. From Now On, The Educational Technology Journal, 9(4). Retrieved July 14, 2013, from http://fno.org/dec99/scaffold.html

Week 4 Reflection – 542

Arthur Costa stated in the book Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, “Educational outcomes in traditional settings focus on how many answers a student knows. When we teach for the Habits of Mind, we are interested also in how students behave when they don’t know an answer”(2008). I feel strongly our project assessments meet the criteria established in Key Principles of Effective Assessment. What I am more intrigued about this week is how to change culture. Assessment can play a part.

In order to make the shift in culture the tasks must be rich and challenging. The Holocaust PBL fits as it connects past to the present and future. This project will be something of interest and intrigue. That said, as I explored 16 listed Habits of Mind as learning outcomes, I realized I found something that could help. The sixteen listed Habits of the Mind are “patterns of intellectual behaviors that lead to productive actions” Costa, (2008). The list is not suggested to be complete. It does represent something teachable and able to be assessed. So the assessments and the actions of the teacher must model the behaviors I want from my students. Consequently, my assessment and my behavior should reflect the six dimensions that are integral to Habits of the Mind:

  • Value: If I want my students to value intellectual behavior over other things, I must be that model. I must value their presence and their time. My assessments must be real and an honest yardstick of their learning.
  • Inclination: I can promote student input on the type and nature of the assessment, teaching them to self-evaluate on their internal scale
  • Sensitivity: I can help model this dimension by channeling their inputs to find the appropriate time and method to chart their journey
  • Capability: I must learn all I can about assessments so I have many more tools in my toolbox. I do not have to know every answer about assessments; but I should know where to find them.
  • Commitment: I must be willing to explore my own work, analyze and modify for successful learning and communication. That includes assessments and structure I set in place. At the end of the day, I am responsible, whether or not I share the journey with students.
  • Policy: If when the going gets tough, I shift to other, less productive habits or assessments, the whole bubble bursts. Teaching teenagers is tough. They expect and demand that you walk the talk.

Costa, A. (2008). Describing the habits of mind. In A. Costa & B. Kallick (Eds.), Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. (2008). Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Describing-the-Habits-of-Mind.aspx

School Evaluation Summary

This assignment was actually quite challenging for me. Early on, I wrote Heads of School for two boarding schools seeking assistance and permission on this project. I also sought permission from the local high school. None of the senior administrators replied. I was shocked; but, moved ahead. I sought help from next-level administrators and received a reply from only one. That occurred only after soliciting help from the administrative secretaries. Still none offered help until after the first of the new year.

Eventually, rather than use ancient data, I solicited help from a few faculty members, the head of IT and a secretary at one of the boarding schools originally on my radar. Not being currently employed made this task more challenging that it was likely intended to be and added a layer of frustration as the semester winds down.

From an administrative standpoint, this was an enlightening assignment, forcing the evaluator to get to the marrow of each skeletal element of an organization’s use and incorporation of technology. I can see having to make just such an analysis once employed as a Technology Integration Specialist. It would help many stakeholders see vantage points they do not often take. Certainly, this study offers a view of every aspect of the organization and how to best focus on a plan moving forward. Simply saying, “We need X.” is not enough in today’s economy. Seeing such an analysis opens the door to dialogue to a unified plan of action for the betterment of the future.

This assignment meets the following AECT Standards: Standard 4.2 Resource Management, 5.1 Problem Analysis, 5.2 Criterion-Referenced Measurement, 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation and 5.4 Long-Range Planning. Using unbiased measurement, identifying problems, analyzing resources and making evaluations and recommendations are crucial to any long-range plan. All stakeholders need to see the issues and agree before working together within the document to reach for solutions and setting goals for the future.

Link to Maturity Benchmark Survey – http://tinyurl.com/MBenchmarkSurvey

Link to full-size evaluation document – http://tinyurl.com/SchoolEvaluationDMB