Magazine article AMLE Magazine

PBL: Learning How to Learn

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

PBL: Learning How to Learn

Article excerpt

We teach children to ask questions at a very early age, then we send them into the secondary school classroom where we ask them to quietly absorb information without questioning it. Projectbased learning (PBL) encourages students to ask questions and explore topics that interest them within the subject. It puts them back into the driver's seat of learning.

PBL is not simply "doing projects"; it is a process of learning that involves both the students and the teacher. The teacher serves as a guide while the students control the learning.

Project-based learning has five key steps, according to Thom Markham, author of several books and resources on project-based teaching and learning:

Step 1: State the Challenge. Students and teachers work together to identify a problem or challenge. It is important to clearly define learning targets of the project during this step.

Step 2: Define the Question. Teachers pose a question that serves as the focus of the project and identifies the deep understanding.

Step 3: Create the Assessment. Students decide how to show what they have learned, including creating their own rubrics that provide the criteria for assessment.

Step 4: Plan Backwards. Students start with the assessment and map out the plan for the project, end to beginning.

Step 5: Keep the End in Mind. The teacher assesses the students to keep them on the right track.

PBL in Action

Recently, I introduced PBL to my seventh grade geography class. In following with Markham's five steps, we decided to look at how geography was relevant in students' lives. We then developed a learning target that addressed this topic: by the end of the project, the students would be able to clearly explain how geography affected the state of North Dakota, as well as each of them individually.

I posed the question that they would explore: "How does geography affect me and North Dakota?" Students individually thought about the assignment, created their own rubric, then partnered with a classmate and combined their individual rubrics into one. Finally the students collaborated to put all of the rubrics together to form one class rubric which they would use to assess themselves.

Spirit of Collaboration

Because students drive the learning in PBL, I allowed them to choose their own groups. Each group decided how they would demonstrate their newfound knowledge. Then, working backward, they created an action plan. Each action plan required a teacher signature as an acknowledgment that the students were on the right track.

With approval, the students were free to work on their projects. …

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