Learning by Doing: Transitions Into PBL

Learning by Doing: A Teacher Transitions Into PBL

I have been a high school English teacher for 15 years. Every year, I try to do something a little different because I like learning from the process. After teaching AP Literature for a while, I became an AP Reader. Then, I presented at a national conference. I feel that I need to grow and develop every year. By the time I read Julius Caesar aloud in class for the 55th time, it was time for a change. That’s why my new school was a project-based learning school.

The First Try

To be honest, I had not heard the term PBL until the job interview. I went through a week of in-depth training and met with some veteran PBL teachers. The idea sounded great in theory — creating projects that helped students learn educational concepts. The first unit that I created taught the basic elements of writing through analyzing advertising campaigns. Students selected a product, determined the target audience, and then had to rebrand the product and create an advertisement directed at a new target audience. I spent a lot of time putting the unit together, and I thought it was pretty good.

I wish I could say that it went well, but it did not. I tried to embrace the idea of exploration and let the project grow organically. I wanted the students to discover things for themselves. I floated around the room to answer specific questions about the assignment, and I worked to make sure that students were on task. Some finished the assignment pretty quickly, but others were still in the early stages when the project was nearly due. For their presentations, I got a friend who works in marketing to come in and provide feedback for their finished commercials (the authentic audience component of PBL). Out of 12 groups, only two were able to present by the end of the period, and they were scrambling to get their presentation together at the last minute. I felt like a failure.

Read the entire article:  http://edut.to/1FXwJZB (Shawn Canney, Edutopia, 092115)