Project Based Learning: Day 3

Day 3 – Introductory Week

I started the class off with a Check-In meeting. While I modeled the basic order of the meeting, I also wanted the students to experience a sense of urgency. Unlike the Check-In meetings I modeled the past couple days, this meeting moved at a much faster pace.

During the Check-In meeting, I went around the room and asked how the students were feeling. It sounds simple, but it’s always a good idea as a group to know how everyone is feeling at the start of any endeavor. I followed by acknowledging some of the great things that students were doing yesterday and addressed any concerns that I had. Finally, I reviewed the day’s tasks and ensured that all the students understood what needed to be done and when each task needed to be completed.

Ultimately, I want the students to take ownership of this class and be agents of their own learning. In order to encourage a Project Based Learning experience in its truest essence, I thought it crucial that the students be a part of the creative process. So, I had them consider what we needed as individuals, as groups, as a class, to function effectively and successfully. They conducted research and discussed their ideas with their peers before sharing the following three items:

  • Group Contract – A contract for each student within a group to sign in agreement with the expectations set forth at the beginning of each project. (Initial Accountability)
  • Peer Reflection – A form that allows the students to assess their group members’ performance as well as their own. (Ongoing Accountability)
  • Skill Set Assessment – A form that assesses each student’s learning style, skill set, and personal preferences. The results from each student’s assessment will be used to create heterogeneous groups of mixed abilities.

When asked to provide reasoning for deciding on these three items, the students said that they were most concerned about group dynamics and individual accountability. They felt that both areas were essential to successful collaboration.

With those suggestions, I assigned them the tasks of completing rough drafts of each by the end of class so we may present them for peer review the next day. I divided the class into three sections (designated by each of the three forms) and directed the students to choose a section that they were most interested in creating, with the condition that all three sections must have an equal (or near equal) amount of students.

Student DiscussionAfter the students moved into three equal groups, they began the process of creating each of the three forms. I circulated throughout this time, keeping a fairly comfortable distance so the students wouldn’t feel like I was hovering over them. When necessary, I engaged a group with questions to help drive their thinking.

Within the last five minutes of class, I called the students together and led a Debrief Meeting1. I asked the groups to provide updates on their progress and had the students reflect on the process of collaborating. Some of the questions that I asked were:

  • What did you notice that worked well?
  • What do you think could have been improved?
  • How could we improve that next time?
  • Did we have the right tools?

They struggled a little bit with these questions, so I helped provide a few examples to get them thinking and reflecting.


Notes:

  1. Debrief meetings are extremely beneficial in providing students with an opportunity to engage in reflection. They also provide a great way for the teacher to check for understanding. Throughout the semester I plan to introduce my students to different methods of debriefing. As I do, I’ll share each method on my blog for future reference.
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