One of my goals for 2013 was to maximise student engagement by making learning more meaningful and authentic for my students. I wanted their classroom work to have a real relevance to their lives. This can be difficult with young students who often don’t see the bigger picture. My Year 2s are more than happy to learn concepts and complete tasks to please their teacher, but I wanted them to move beyond that.
Project Based Learning (PBL) looked like the perfect pedagogy for this purpose. Instead of students learning a range of disconnected concepts and skills, PBL provides a real purpose that drives and connects that learning. For a great explanation of Project Based Learning go to http://www.bie.org/about/what_is_pbl
Over the year, my Year Two team and I developed four project based learning units for our classes. None of them turned out quite the way I anticipated, but the learning along the way for both our students and ourselves was valuable.
In terms of achieving the original goal, which was to maximise engagement by providing real and authentic purpose for learning, I believe we were successful. There are things I would do differently if I could attempt those projects again. Some things didn’t work at all, however, after a year of using PBL with my class, I have to say I’m a convert. I love the way the approach engages and empowers students.
This Diagram from the Buck Institute of Learning shows the essential elements of PBL. As I describe each of our projects, I’ll explain how they fit the different elements.
I’ll outline each project over the next few posts, starting with Project 1. A School Fair.
I’d like to thank the NSW Department of Education and Communities for providing the course ‘Project Based Learning and ICT in the Classroom’ back in 2012, which introduced me to PBL and started me on this journey.
I’d also like to thank Bianca and Lee Hewes for their excellent Project Learning Swap Meet which I attended last January. This helped me take the theory that I learned at the NSW DEC course and put it into practice by working with other teachers to develop projects, hear from teachers already using PBL in their classrooms and make helpful connections with other teachers who could provide encouragement and support along the way. Bianca’s excellent blog is a great resource for anyone looking into PBL.
Most importantly, I’d like to thank my principal, Jeanette, for encouraging me and supporting me in stepping outside my comfort zone to take risks in my teaching, and the wonderful team of teachers I work with who so willing to collaborate with me on this.