Sunday, February 12, 2017

#WeeCreate: Project Based Learning

Over one hundred years ago American educational theorist John Dewey wrote about the need for students to learn through experience. Dewey's aspiration for student-centered learning experiences capped with metacognitive reflection was largely stunted until recently by limited resources and/or textbook driven curricula. For too long lesson plans and assessments focused on content recall rather than skill development. Fast forward to Weehawken in 2017. Our teachers are backwards-designing their curriculum units with a focus on authentic learning experiences in which students create and showcase products of their learning. The combination of inquiry, assessment, and creation are the essential elements of Project Based Learning (PBL).  The District's 1:1 devices and blended learning platforms facilitate and enhance PBL.

Here is a short video introduction to PBL from the Buck Institute.

PBL shatters the textbook driven cycle of lecture-quiz-lecture-test-project. In PBL teachers no longer play the role of expert content dispenser. Instead teachers coach and assist students in acquiring knowledge and skills for themselves.  In PBL the project is the unit. Below is a great illustration of PBL from Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy.


In Weehawken our teachers utilize essential questions to focus the inquiry that drives PBL. Google Classroom is being utilized as the platform to organize essential questions, research assignments, project development, and post-unit reflections. Google Apps such as Docs, Hangouts, Sheets, Forms, and Drawings allow for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration amongst our students, as well as, the public sharing of PBL learning products.  

The following are some examples of PBL in our District.

WHS Interdisciplinary Skit Performed on Stage at Hamilton
Before the February 8th matinee of Hamilton, Weehawken students Jose Mesa, Devynn Givens, and Chris Arias performed a skit about American neutrality during the French Revolution on stage at the Richard Rodgers Theater. The skit was developed as part of an interdisciplinary PBL unit in the students’ U.S. History and English courses taught by Laurie Kroll and Kate Kitzie.
Teen Arts Film Festival
In April students from Weehawken and across Hudson County will showcase their films at the Teen Arts Film Festival.

TRS Collaborative Class Blog
Each week students in Ane Eberhard's class contribute to the class blog that is then shared with the District.
DWS Trout in the Classroom
Daniel Webster students are raising rainbow trout from eggs that will be released into the wild in May. Besides providing a hands-on bioresource engineering experience, the trout serve as prompts for writing activities and art projects.


WHS AP Capstone Diploma Program
WHS Students are currently in the first year of a two-year course sequence during which they design, plan, and conduct an investigation of a topic of their choosing with support from experts at the university level or in the community.  Students build on the skills learned in the AP Seminar course by using research methodology;  employing ethical research practices; and accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information to present an argument.  At the end of the AP Research course students have present and orally defend their own scholarly academic research.

TRS National History Day
In March, 6th graders will participate in National History Day (NHD) for the first time. The NHD theme for 2017 is "Taking a Stand in History." Students have the choice to showcase the results of their social studies inquiry and analysis via a website, documentary, exhibit, performance, or paper.


WHS New Robotics Class and Team
This year we launched our robotics course and team that meet in the WHS STEAM Lab. WHS students will compete in their first robotics competition on February 18th.




REFERENCES
Cooper, R., & Murphy, E. (2016). Hacking PBL. Cleveland, OH: 10 Times Publications.
Dewey, J., & Archambault, R. D. (1964). John Dewey on education; selected writings. New York: Modern Library.
Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Larmer, J., Ross, D., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2009). PBL starter kit: To-the-point advice, tools and tips for your first project in middle or high school. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.
Pahomov, L. (2014). Authentic learning in the digital age: Engaging students through inquiry. Alexandria: ASCD.
Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2011). The understanding by
design: Guide to creating high-quality units. Boston:
Pearson.