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Ross Cooper | @RossCoops31

Ross Cooper | @RossCoops31

I am the coauthor of Hacking Project Based Learning, and the Supervisor of Instructional Practice K-12 in the Salisbury Township School District (1:1 MacBook/iPad) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I am an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Innovator. My passions are inquiry-based learning and quality professional development. I blog about these topics at rosscoops31.com. I regularly speak, present, and conduct workshops related to my writings and professional experiences.

When I am not working, I enjoy eating steak and pizza, exercising, reading books, playing on my computer, and provoking my three beautiful nephews. Please feel free to connect via email, RossCoops31@gmail.com, and Twitter, @RossCoops31.

Posted by on in Project Based Learning

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?

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Posted by on in Project Based Learning

makeup

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. 

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning

As I began my student teaching about ten years ago, I attended the first-day-back faculty meeting, during which the building principal chastised teachers, “Don’t use worksheets! They’re not best practice!”

Thinking about what she said, the same two questions come to mind now as they did back then: What should teachers be using instead? Can all worksheets really be that bad?...Let’s focus on answering the second question (which will then naturally help to partially answer the first).

So, here are three reasons to embrace (some) worksheets, reasons that are based on my work as a teacher.

1. Worksheets Can Promote Higher-Order Thinking

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Posted by on in Project Based Learning

Admittedly, it took me longer than it should have to be able to make the distinction between professional development and training.

In short, I now view professional development as the process of building capacity in participants (or attempting to do so), while training generally follows more of a rigid approach with several “rights” and “wrongs.” Overall, I believe both have a place in education. For example, for about the past two years at my district’s elementary level there have been various forms of professional development involving Writing Workshop, but in January a representative from Heinemann is going to be training these same teachers on the new Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.

At the same time, I have come to realize there is a third category, which can be triggered when we mistakenly believe we are providing deep professional development, but in actuality we are barely scratching the surface with not much more than conversations and examples related to a specific topic. This third category, which falls somewhere in between the other two on the “autonomy spectrum,” can be called discussion.

Since the line between discussion and professional development can easily be blurred, let’s take a look at how each of these categories applies to educators being introduced to essential questions, the topic that serves as the main focus of Chapter 5 in Hacking Project Based Learning.

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning

    Once you have a solid project idea, getting it down on paper and delivering it to your students can be a daunting task. At the beginning of the planning process, you often don’t have much more than a blank slate and a job that involves creating directions that will hopefully help to bring to life the project you’re envisioning. I have been designing project based learning directions for several years, and I have found that working with certain features in mind helps to (1) provide me with a solid direction, and (2) assist in making my directions that much more effective.

    Here are ten features to always consider when creating project based learning (PBL) directions for your students.

    1. Essential Question: After you and/or your students have created your project’s essential question, make sure it “hits them in the face” wherever they turn for as long as they are engaged in the project. One way to ensure it’s everywhere is by including it at the top of all project-related materials, such as your directions (think, branding). We want students to see the essential question as much as possible as a continual reminder that everything they are learning falls within its context.

    2. Checkpoints: When students are engaged in PBL (or any type of long-term activity) never wait until the end to see what they know/don’t know. In other words, a final product should never come as a surprise. At certain points in your directions, perhaps after more complicated steps, include something like, “Teacher conference/approval before moving on.” This way, you can consistently gauge “where students are” and then adjust your instruction accordingly.

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