Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Day Two...Discovering what PBL can provide

Discovering what PBL can provide

What makes a good teacher? This is a question constantly being asked by politicians, policy experts, parents, taxpayers and many others including myself. What I find missing in the conversation of what education and classroom setting should look like is the student's perspective. Why aren't we more comfortable with asking the largest consumer of our product what they would like to see? Why do we continue to think that traditional education is the only answer in an ever changing world? Students need to have a voice but more importantly we need to listen carefully and respond authentically. What I find exciting is PBL allows for a safe environment in which students are eager to share their voice and teachers value what they say.

This exact question, what makes a good teacher, was asked to two superstars from Nueva High School in California, Leona and Briana Das. These young women provided a powerful keynote address in which they discussed their experiences in a PBL based school (I could go on and on about these two amazing girls!). Here are their responses: we want our teachers to have “Energy and passion” (B. Das). “Our teachers love learning with us” and “we are teaching them”. Our teachers are “learning along with us” and they are “not above us and our friends” (L. Das). PBL provides opportunity for student voice to be respected.

PBL provides students chances to fail and more important persevere through the "hard stuff". The Das sister's talked about the failure of their projects being as important as the successes. In fact they even mentioned that they documented their failures "very well". They weren't paralyzed by their research not working they knew they could move forward and make it better. Talk about a real-world strategy! Students absolutely should be convinced that they can change the world, and when it doesn't happen they will move forward to the next "big thing". PBL provides confidence, perseverance and opportunity for failure!

PBL allows opportunity for "vigor" to replace "rigor". My PBL facilitator Jennifer Klein is part of the reason I feel so excited about this journey. She pointed out that we shouldn't use the term "rigor". Do we want our students to feel stiffness and death in our classroom? No way! So instead she encourages us to use the term "vigor". Good education with the help of PBL can provide this much needed active and effective force in our classroom!

PBL provides much needed opportunities to move away from the "sit and get" model. It takes a lot to move away from the feeling that the only way students will learn is by the teacher providing the information and content. When we brainstormed as a group the characteristics of an ideal graduate our list didn't include anything relating to content. Am I trying to make all of my students historians and policy experts? No way! Instead I should be striving to light a fire for inquiry, foster problem solving skills, develop compassion and instill a desire to never stop asking questions and learning.

Before all my teacher friends start freaking out about adding more things to their plate I encourage you to take the viewpoint of my facilitator, Jennifer Klein, that we are "not adding to the plate we are changing plates today". Also, for all the parents out there, PBL doesn't mean you will now be scrambling to create more solar system models and family trees! Jennifer pointed out early on that "traditional projects create supermoms and superdads". Instead PBL will allow your child at any age to have authentic learning experiences they can be proud of! Now that's exciting!!

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