My next step was to discuss this idea with the teachers who I work with at my school. I wanted to get their insight and collaborate with them to help enhance my growth as well as student growth. The teachers I connected with were enthusiastic about trying this with our students. We planned how we would implement this active learning strategy during the next school year.
When the problem based learning questions were introduced during our math lesson the students were thrilled. There were leading questions and the students had to incorporate multiplication and division. They were allowed to work in pairs or groups of their choosing. The students began to work immediately and started to plan their strategies. This process was different for us as teachers since we had to let them plan rather than take our usual role of teaching the topic. We could guide but not give direct instructions on how they should answer or what they should produce. They had to be prepared to present to another class their final finding. We had to let the students be active learners and it was amazing!
Through collaboration with another teacher, we determined that we would also use Project Based Learning for another group of students. We decided to have the students solve the following problem based on our curriculum. We used a project that had already been developed and added to it. Students were told that the state fair would no longer be held at its current location. They were then told that the governor had chosen their team as the representative and event coordinator of their region. It was their job to convince the governor and his advisors (an unbiased group of students from your school) why the state fair should be held in their region. The students once again were allowed to pick their own groups and were guided through the process. We met with the students to confer and go over the question, their solutions and the rubric. The student projects were once again outstanding and incorporated different learning styles and the use of technology. The final step was that the students presented them to other students in our school. They presented with rave reviews. Project Based Learning definitely has helped my student develop the 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity!
As a result of the research, collaboration with my professional community and student learning I grew as an educator through the use of Project Based Learning. I shared this information and the work that my students completed with our Talent Development Department. I contributed to our district wiki some of the problems and enhancements I have used. This is something that I am proud of as a professional.
To learn more about Project Based Learning and how it can be used to enrich learning experiences and engage learners, check out the archives of a recent #cmsk12chat, which I co-moderated with Joshua Lemere.
Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5. As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree. Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!