First, we kill our students creativity. Next, we ask them to be creative and wonder why they have such a hard time.
We always aspire for our students to move away from fact regurgitation and move toward higher level thinking and deeper understanding. When we ask students to brainstorm and generate ideas, provide solutions to problems, or to think and reason critically, we are really asking them to be creative. The sad truth is that by standardizing education we often kill creativity. The hope lies in the fact that creativity is an acquired skill that can be improved.
If we make a conscious decision to change things up in our classrooms, to change the way we educate our students, we can increase their creativity. With increased creativity they can innovate and be more successful.
The human brain is composed of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter stores knowledge and is used when we think. White matter is tissue through which the brain transfers and connects information. Scientific studies show that extraordinarily creative individuals have more white matter than others. This is good, because it proves creativity is something we can get better at....
The Power and Pitfalls of PBL’s
Alright, lets just get this part out of the way first: I realize there are drastic differences between project based learning and problem based learning experiences, but for the purpose of this post I am going to hybridize the two concepts because the content of what you are about to read is relevant for both project based, as well as problem based learning experiences.
PBL’s are a great learning tool. They can increase engagement, help connect students to larger concepts, and enable teachers to show cross-cutting or cross-curricular concepts in a way that students can really buy-in to. I use PBL’s all the time, but I see others stumble, fall, and curse the name when they are implemented improperly.
The problems with PBL’s (haha…get it?)
Let me preface this by saying that there is no definitive “right” way to implement problem based learning, but I would strongly argue that there are plenty of wrong ways to do it. Often, when teachers start implementing PBL’s they think that they are going to provide an awesome “artifact” or engaging “hook” and in 2 – 3 magical weeks the students will have produced these amazing products of learning. The problem is that they don’t plan the day-to-day and just assume that the PBL will run itself.
It is in the facilitation of problem based learning that the majority of learning occurs. If you expect students to “connect all the dots” alone and without your guidance (and without well thought out planning) you’re most likely in for a struggle. The end result will most likely be a chaotic few weeks and products that are less than stellar with little concrete evidence of learning or growth.
Things you can do to make your next PBL Great
When you design and implement problem based learning, think about how you will structure the learning experience. Think about providing daily check-ins and exit discussions to monitor progress. You can also break the project into tasks and organize it into a self-paced system to allow students the freedom to work but with the accountability of formative check-ins or assessments....
Grant Wiggins defined feedback as, “information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal.” A few specific examples he included were:
- A friend tells me, "You know, when you put it that way and speak in that softer tone of voice, it makes me feel better."
- A baseball coach tells me, "Each time you swung and missed, you raised your head as you swung so you didn't really have your eye on the ball. On the one you hit hard, you kept your head down and saw the ball."
For both examples, the recipient receives specific guidance in regards to what to do next…When we provide feedback during project based learning (PBL), or any type of learning, we should have this same goal in mind. Students should walk away with an idea of what their next steps will be (otherwise, what we’re giving probably doesn’t meet the definition of “feedback”).
John Hattie, who has synthesized over 1,000 meta-analyses related to student achievement, identifies feedback as among the most powerful influences on student success in the classroom. He says feedback, when goal-focused, has “twice the average effect of all other schooling effects.”
But, when and how do we make time for feedback during project based learning?...
How will my students and I know they are learning what they are supposed to learning? How will I assess this?
These are easily two of the more popular questions that emerge as educators make the shift to project based learning, and some form of a rubric (and its effective use) is usually a big part of the answer.
As I continue to analyze rubrics (or adaptations of rubrics) there are a few specific look-fors that help to immediately indicate whether the tool is spot on, or if some revisions are necessary. Here are five look-fors that suggest your rubric needs a makeover.
Problem #1: Your rubric closely resembles your project’s directions....