542 Final Reflections

Before this class, I knew very little about project based learning. I always thought of PBL as more of a math, science, or CTE experience; however, this course has shown me how I can integrate PBL in the high school English Language Arts classroom.

The thing I understand most about project based learning is the idea of the driving question and creativity.  I suppose it comes down to the purpose of the PBL experience.  I understand the importance of giving students a voice when it comes to their learning.  Also, PBL equips students with skills that will be useful to them in the future.  I understand how the driving question drives all of this to be possible.

The thing that I still struggle with is how to incorporate project based learning while not losing a lot of instructional time.  I am okay with losing a few activities to make way for a PBL experience; however, I do not just have endless time to dedicate to the process.  That seems to be what I understand least about project based learning.  How am I supposed to balance the curriculum with an experience like this?

In this course, I expected to learn what project learning is and how to incorporate it in my classroom.  I wanted to make sure that any PBL incorporated in the classroom would be meaningful to my students and their community. I learned a lot about PBL and the importance of integrating it in the classroom.  I enjoyed perusing the BIE site and exploring the available resources.  I learned a lot that I feel I did not get to fully integrate in my current PBL because of time constraints. (The seven week course goes so fast!)  I am eager to update this PBL and attempt to create a few more (without going overboard!) that I can use at various times during the year.  Also, I learned that a lot of research must go into a PBL.  I tend to spend a lot of time researching, but this took that research time to a much higher level.  I am still trying to process all that I learned during this course.  I feel that I learned more than I thought because I took the time to thoroughly read the resources and peruse the various websites.

My goal is to implement the PBL experience in my classroom during the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. I can use the rest of the summer (now that the course is about over) to tweak the existing product.  Also, I had another PBL idea that I did not have time to thoroughly research during this course.  I would like to take what I learned and create another PBL that I could use in the school year.  Additionally, I would like to share what I have learning with my colleagues in order to illustrate the benefits (and importance!) of PBL in the classroom


Debrief the PBL

Often times when a unit comes to an end, it is never heard from again.  Everything I teach in my classroom is tied together thematically.  Additionally, the literary elements bring all of the stories back together.  With a PBL, it would feel like it is over when it’s over; however, that is not how it works.  Because all of the works are thematically linked, it will be possible to bring the PBL experience up throughout the year.  Additionally, as each Humanities course builds upon the course before it, the sophomore teachers could also build upon the experience.  This would bring in vertical articulation to the PBL experience even though it is done.  Project based learning is not just a one time assessment.  It is an ongoing learning experience that encourages life long learning.  The skills utilized during a PBL will assist the student for the rest of his or her life.

At the end of the presentation, it is important to debrief the experience as a whole.  Having the students blog, take surveys, participate in class discussions, etc are all great ways for students to continue the experience even when it is over.  Within the course, it would be nice for my students to follow up with the first and second grade students with whom they worked during the presentation.  Follow up is always a great way to reinforce the numerous lessons learned throughout the process.

Students will continue to blog and respond to blog posts.  Additionally, I would encourage administration to review the blogs in order to show the importance and relevance of project based learning.  Perhaps seeing the long term learning that exists within a PBL will encourage administration and other teachers to be supporting of PBL and all that it entails.


Teacher as Facilitator

Project based learning is not something I have yet tried in my classroom.  As a teacher of Humanities, I struggled with understanding where I could implement PBL and make it meaningful.  This course has shown me how I can do just that.

While attempting to integrate a PBL experience in my classroom, my role will change.  While I do not subscribe to the “sage on the stage” philosophy, I do feel that I can share a lot of knowledge with my students.  My role will have to transition to that of facilitator during a PBL experience.

An effective facilitator must possess many skills.  First, the facilitator must value the team members and their ideas.  It is important to listen to all ideas.  While there may be some ideas that lack strength, those ideas may spur stronger ideas from other team members.  Also, the facilitator must be a great communicator.  It is important to clearly explain ideas.  The facilitator may also be a mediator at times.  Clearly communicating ideas is an important skill for any facilitator.

The students, through participating in a PBL experience, will develop the 21st century skills necessary to be successful in the future.  The job market is changing.  Many have said that educators are preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist.  Incorporating PBL in the classroom will allow students to learn and master skills that they will require later in life.

With respect to being a facilitator, I feel that I already run the classroom that way.  The hard part for me is going to be sacrificing content to allow time for a PBL experience.  In Humanities class, we teach reading, writing, grammar, etc.  I will have to analyze the content I teach in order to create enough time for a meaningful PBL.

Cross Content PBL

The first option for the blog this week revolves around cross content PBL.  There are many benefits to creating a cross content PBL.  The students are able to see the teachers modeling effective collaboration.  Additionally, students will have more time to work on their PBL.  The students can receive feedback from two different teachers which will help them receive the best overall feedback.

The biggest challenges would be time and resources. Teachers at the high school level do not share the same students.  We do not have a team approach like the middle schools, so it would be a large challenge to create a true cross content PBL.  Additionally, the teachers would need adequate planning time.  This would require subs for during the day or paid time after school.

It would take a lot of hard work and administrative commitment to make this a possibility at the high school level.  The administration would need to strongly support the project.  Financial support would need to be available for materials, planning time, resources, etc.  Also, the administration would need to figure out a way to schedule students with the same two teachers.  That is a nearly impossible task.  The other option would be for the students that do not share the teachers to still be included in the project.  Students would have to work with their groups when they could.

In closing, it is possible to create a cross content PBL.  While it would take a lot of planning on the part of the teachers and administration, it would be of great benefit to the students.

Effective PBL Assessments

I have created a number of formative and summative assessments for this PBL experience. The assessments are effective in that students have choice.  For the final product, the students have complete control over how they present their final product.  It was a lot of fun brainstorming different ways the students could present the material.  It did make it a little difficult to create one overall rubric, but I figured out a way to create the rubrics so they were meaningful for each product.  Additionally, even in the essay, the students have a choice, although limited, over what they write.  They can pick which prompt and which characters they examine in the essay. Also, the assessments are well balanced as both formative and summative assessments are given.

Teaching style will need to be adjusted during the PBL experience.  Students must be given a choice to be active participants in the evaluation process.  They have to evaluate both themselves and other group members.  Teachers must be comfortable not only allowing students the opportunity to lead but also fail.


All of the assessments can be found by clicking here.

Driving Questions and Reflections

The driving question helps focus the problem based learning project.  It helps focus the project for both the teacher and the student (Miller 2015).  Additionally, the driving questions helps learners understand the purpose of the project.  The driving question is not easy to answer.  It requires planning, research, and communication in order to present the action developed by the team. The driving question gives students a focus for the project without giving them the answers.

The driving question “How can you teach compassion for children?” focuses the project for the teacher and the learners.  The subquestions allow learners to generate ideas that will assist them in their final product.  Students will have to determine what compassion is and how it can be taught.  Additionally, as the final lesson will be taught to first and second graders, the learners must determine what methodologies will work best for that grade level.  Students will analyze where compassion can be seen on a daily basis and how that action illustrates compassion.  The subquestions will assist the students in creating that final product for answering the driving question.  By first creating the driving question, the subquestions make it easy to create and implement the entire unit.

For the visual product, I have decided to use Padlet.  This particular Padlet allows users to add links, pictures, and thoughts about the driving question.   Additionally, students can comment on one another’s posts about any given topic.  Students can work collaboratively within their own groups and comment on the work of other groups.  This will allow for true collaboration while working on the final product.


Miller, A. (2015). How to Write Effective Driving Questions for Project-Based Learning. Retrieved May 28, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-how-to-write-driving-questions-andrew-miller

PBL Reflection and Driving Question

I recently completed my first thorough session researching examples of project based learning activities.  I found quite a few solid examples of PBLs.  The examples I found have given me a stronger understanding of what a PBL is supposed to look like.  While reading novels, the students and I make connections to the text constantly.  That is a natural part of being an English teacher and a learner in an English classroom.  Project based learning seems to take what I already do and expand upon it.  Once I have a stronger understanding of PBLs, I know that I will incorporate them when it is meaningful and manageable.

At this point, I do have an idea for my project.  I teach two different classes.  One course reads To Kill a Mockingbird, and the other course reads The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  Both novels deal with issues related to race, economic status, and compassion. I am currently looking at picking the first idea. I have two ideas at this point:

  1. How do you teach compassion to children?
  2. Something about race and the judicial system in America.

With the first idea, I was thinking students could look at the importance of teaching compassion to children in order to raise respectful, compassionate adults.  Students would then create a way to teach the importance of compassion to first or second grade students at a local elementary school.

I am unsure how I would phrase the second question.  I want students to explore the role race can play throughout the judicial process in America.  Students can research communities, crime rates, and prison sentences.  Students could compare data in order to create their thoughts.  They would then create a product on their findings and what changes they think could be made to the system.  Again, this topic is still a work in progress.

Here is the link to the PBL template that I will be editing throughout the course.