Our first Project-Based Learning session was quite interesting. Our focus was on the notion of open vs. closed questions. Closed questions tend to be information-gathering or low-level questions - very rarely is knowledge formed from such questions, but rather students look up knowledge of others. Open questions, on the other hand, challenge students to form their own knowledge - they can take that basic information and do something with it. I saw a great summarization: closed questions tend to be answered with shorter answers, and open questions have longer answers.
We also briefly discussed performance tasks, and the challenge of teachers constructing such tasks. GRASPS is a framework for helping teachers design performance tasks:
- Goal: What is the goal of the activity for the students?
- Role: What is each student's job?
- Audience: Who will be receiving the results of the task?
- Situation: What is the scenario under which the students will be acting?
- Product/Performance/Purpose: What will be created?
- Standards and criteria: How will the task be judged/evaluated?
We'll continue to look at this framework in later classes.
As a follow-up activity to the first session, there are four questions to reflect upon:
- What ideas are sticking with you from today?
I particularly liked our sharing of closed and open questions. Everyone developed an example of closed and open questions, and then meandered around the room sharing with others. Then as a group, we each shared one question that we really liked.
Everyone agreed that the open questions were much more interesting and intriguing than closed questions - if teachers think so, I know students think so.
- What ideas affirmed your pre-existing assumptions about PBL?
In my experience, teachers tend to balk at implementing project-based learning because it can be more time-consuming - more time to develop and plan tasks, more time to implement during class, etc. But I also believe that spending a little more time on higher-level tasks can pay off on developing better thinkers.
- What questions do you want to address next?
This is perhaps a little big as the next single topic to discuss: I've always liked the idea of project-based learning taken to the level of simulation or immersion - becoming deeply engaged in the scenario of the task. In my former life as a science teacher, I had the idea of running my chemistry classroom like a research lab, in which students received grade reports structured like paychecks, labs were real-world problems for which students had to develop the experimental technique and "purchase" the equipment, and produce products or information for clients. I'd like to revisit that idea - of creating an immersive PBL environment and what it can do for student achievement.
- How and when will you use what you've learned today?
My first challenge is to look at how I want to redeliver this to my staff. PBL looks different in every department, so I think I'll need to reach out to my technology-savvy teachers to help craft a professional development plan for redelivery. I might even start with the simpler task of introducing/discussing closed vs. open questions.