Post Project Reflection

Who will you involve in the process?

In the Army, we had a part of every mission called the After Action Report.  This was conducted at the end of the mission.  It involved everyone who participated in the mission.  The purpose was to see what went well to build upon for future missions and what didn’t go so well to improve preparation for future missions.  This would be my guiding process for conducting a post-PBL reflection.

What will your process look like?

I would start with a self-reflection.  This would allow the opportunity to think about issues that each person feels needs to be discussed.  Then each team would meet before bringing everyone together for a class discussion.  This gradual build-up could increase participation if students don’t feel like they are being put on a spot.  Afterwards, a final self-reflection to absorb all the information.  This would be followed by a similar process that occurs among the staff to institute changes for future projects.

Is it just a one-time assessment?

For any assessment to have value, there must be action that leads to changes.  These changes will in turn produce new results and new issues which would require more changes.  Like any educational process, in order to flourish, these changes are necessary to prevent stagnation of learning.

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Role of the Facilitator

Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?

The expression “sage on a stage” fits me as a teacher, though I tend to use the word “diva”.  In a PBL unit, there is more student-centered learning, so my role will require less direct instruction and more guidance.  However, having worked in a GED environment where students may not be on the same subject, let alone the same topic, I am familiar and comfortable with conducting a class where students are working at their own pace.  Although it isn’t PBL, I feel that I can easily adapt into the PBL environment.  And, if you ask my students, I have can do so and still be the GED Diva.

What are the skills of effective facilitation?

Being an effective facilitator requires knowledge of the content, like a teacher, but demands so much more.  Facilitators need to guide the process and keep it on track.  They must, as stated previously, possess knowledge.  However, their job is not to convey all the information themselves, but to elicit and draw thoughts and ideas from the group members.  They are not just results-oriented.  The process of how the results are obtained is vital and facilitators need to direct the learning so that all members are involved throughout the process.

Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?

Interestingly enough, some of the smartest students I graduated with have not gone on and fulfill the promising futures that were destined for them.  Meanwhile, students who were fairly average academically have become very successful.  This would seem to contradict the intent of school.  Yet, when you realize why, it makes sense.  The successful people are generally ones who have good communication and collaborative skills – 21st Century skills.  Success in most careers is not an individual result.  It is generally derived from the ability to work as a team.  Often times in sports, a team with lesser talent triumphs over a group of highly-skilled individuals.  This is because they functioned as a team and completed a team-oriented task.  These are the skills that need to be developed in order to be successful in life.  Having a strong academic background is a benefit, not the foundation.  In the traditional classroom, where the academics are given top priority, the 21st Century skills may be ignored.  However, In a PBL classroom where 21st Century skills are the basis for learning and academics are the tools used, the likelihood of becoming successful is increased as more students will develop their abilities in both areas.

What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?

However, facilitation is an area where I need to improve.  Facilitators take more of a back seat in the process, whereas, in my class, I find that I still spend a lot of time providing direct instruction to my students – just on a smaller scale.  As a facilitator in a PBL class, I need to spend more time listening to students all the way through and not stop them as soon as I realize what they need.  In order for students to better retain knowledge, they need to form it in a manner that makes sense to them.  I need to allow them the time to talk through it.  Also, if they make an error, instead of correcting them, I need to guide them to think it through and realize what their error was and go back and fix it.

Reference

Section 2. Developing Facilitation Skills. (n.d.). Chapter 16:  group facilitation and problem-solving. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/group-facilitation/facilitation-skills/main

 

Designing Integrated Curriculum

When my students take the GED Ready Test for Social Studies or Science, I hand them a calculator.  Their first response is, “Why do I need a calculator for the Social Studies/Science test?”  I explain to them that there is Mathematics in Social Studies and Science.  Inevitably, they say “That’s dumb.”  Therein lies the biggest challenge in interdisciplinary projects.

Education has done a disservice to students by separating learning into disciplinary courses.  In real life, scientists, engineers, archaeologists – anyone and everyone – uses skills learned in all courses in an interconnected way.  Students, however, if they have never been exposed to this, don’t see that connection (this helps explains why students in Algebra have trouble conceiving letters as numbers).  Once students begin working on interdisciplinary projects, they will begin to make those connections (a relief for the Math teacher who tires of the question, ‘why do I need to know this?’).  If students are exposed at an earlier age to this process, it will be more natural for them as they age.  The longer the delay, the harder it will be to reshape their ways of thinking what is a Math/English/Social Studies/Science class.

A second challenge is from educators themselves who may have never taught this way before.  Like the students, you are taking them out of their comfort zone and they may resist.  As a Math teacher, I can teach about numbers, but when it comes to English, I don’t teach too “good”.  But, in an interdisciplinary approach, I don’t have to teach English.  I will work with a team providing the students with the mathematical education they need to successfully complete the project.  Working with fellow teachers, especially those outside our field, can be another new and rewarding experience.  As a team member, you will be designing and implementing a curriculum together.  You will have peers to discuss ideas with (similar to most business environments) and develop a stronger plan.  An added benefit is that the students will see teachers working together, modeling how to collaborate.

Currently, my school is not a traditional one.  We do not have courses like a high school.  When it comes to academic education, we are focused on basic skills and credit recovery or high school equivalency.  I am the only GED teacher.  I am responsible for educating my students in all four GED subjects.  Our high school diploma programs are through established online diploma programs.  We don’t have any say in curriculum.  In order to implement an interdisciplinary approach, it would require a radical change in thinking at our administrative level – something that I don’t foresee happening.  Unfortunately, our students, many who have been failed by the traditional approach to teaching, would benefit greatly from an interdisciplinary curriculum.  They are in dire need of 21st century skills in collaboration and communication and yet we focus on getting them to pass the GED (or obtained their diploma) just so we can meet our quotas.

 

PBL: Assessment as Learning

The assessment tools we developed for our PBL project were centered around student input.  The “As I See It” evaluation allows for students to express what they need to learn, the approach to learning they plan on taking and what they expect to accomplish.  This touches upon the aspects of student articulation and ownership of their work.  Another formative assessment we chose was a class discussion.  However, the format of this has not been decided.  I think this might be an area where we can take student input in how they best feel the discussions should be conducted.  Thus, each class that does this project might take it in a different direction.  This article in Edutopia by Dr. Richard Curwin offers 5 suggestions for livening up the class discussion.  Finally, the learning checklist is the weekly tasks that each group must complete in order to keep their project moving forward.  While this is not learner focused, it is a on-going, publicized performance target.

Our summative assessments are the video presentation that each group will create to demonstrate how to solve a particular type of GED problem and the actual GED Ready – the official practice test for the GED.  For test security reasons, we can not provide access to the actual questions on the GED Ready, but we have provided links to sample questions that are similar in scope.  Since the overriding goal is for students to pass the GED, these videos will become valuable tools for the students (and future students) to use to serve this purpose.

I think one part that we might need to include is more documentation by students of things they have accomplished along the way.  Whether they use journals, learning logs, VLOGS or some other tool, the students need to express what they are learning, have accomplished, still need to accomplish and ask any questions they need answers to in order to move forward.  Maybe the classroom discussions will serve this purpose, but I think adding this step beforehand will make the discussions move along more smoothly.

This entire process is a large change for my teaching style.  With the previous GED Mathematics test, which was 80% multiple choice, my focus was on getting students to learn what they needed to pass the test.  In some cases, this involved test taking skills that weren’t math specific.  Now, with the change in test structure, students must be cognizant of the necessary Mathematical skills they need to pass the test.  They can’t just plug in numbers and use trial and error.  Therefore, individual learning differences matter so much more and I need to take that into account when helping each student.  On the old test, pretty much, one type of strategy per problem worked.  Now, students need to be able, more than ever, to express if they are understanding the problem, how to solve them and why the solutions work.