Project Based Learning: Day 1

296After reflecting on all that happened during the first semester, I decided to take on the challenge of adopting a different approach to teaching, i.e. Project Based Learning. Before even introducing the students to the different approach, I spent some time having them reflect on the past semester. We listed about 9 or 10 different items on the board that contributed to their struggles, narrowing it down to a single culprit that caused most of them to fell the pressure: Procrastination. Instead of stopping there, I had them delve deeper into the reasons underlying their need to procrastinate. They cited reasons such as having too many distractions (i.e. wanting to do something else or socialize with friends), feeling lazy (i.e. feeling the need to wander), or not understanding the material (i.e. not knowing where to look for the right information).

Then, I asked them, “What if I told that you we could address each of those needs if only we took a different approach to learning?” They were absolutely intrigued. I shared with them an example I created in Biology for creating a 3-dimensional version of the animal cell. The students would then be split into two groups, the offensive and the defensive groups. The offensive group would have to design a virus that were capable of successfully infiltrating the cell and defeating its defense mechanisms. The Defense group would have to redesign the animal cell, improving upon its defense mechanisms, to protect it from any possible viral attacks. They became more and more excited as I describe the challenge and were already asking me questions about the challenge. Some even asked if they could compare this situation with what happened on Return of the Jedi and take notes on what happened in the story. In a matter of minutes, I saw students that weren’t jaded by the hint at more work, but were excited and engaged!

Before jumping into the project, I wanted the students to learn a little bit about Project Based Learning. As an educator, I feel it’s important that my students understand the strategies used and reasons behind using these strategies. So, I shared some of the research on Project Based Learning with them. We starting reading a few articles and discussing the benefits and the challenges of Project Based Learning.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish our discussion on Project Based Learning and I’ll start the students on a simple project of redesigning the classroom to be more conducive to Project Based Learning.

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