Sunday, 9 February 2014

The TL who doesn't share

I'll readily admit it, I don't share.  I'd better clarify, I don't share PBL projects.

I'm a big fan of Project Based Learning.  I love the transformation I have seen in the teachers' approach to and the students' engagement with the curriculum.  One of my favourite parts of my job is co creating a PBL project.  I thoroughly enjoy the intial creation stage where the classroom teacher and I are trying to come up with the driving question and the end task.  It's this stage that I find to be the most challenging because the wording of the driving question is key and it must line up with the big idea of the learning outcomes.  But it is this stage that is merely the tip of the iceberg because ahead lies hours of work.

In the 3 years that our school has been using PBL, I have worked on over 50 projects of varying sizes.  No matter how big or small, each and every PBL projcet is a detailed endeavor.  The key to a project's success is that the teacher has created a question that intrigues the students and has them willingly take ownership of their learning.  I think it is imperative that if the teacher expects the students to take ownership, the teacher must as well.  I believe that this ownership is hard to muster if the teacher didn't create the project.

I know that my stance is quite unpopular.  I've had disagreements about this with colleagues from different schools and I have had heated arguments about this with administrators.  I have also seen firsthand, teachers adopting PBL projects that weren't theirs and the result have been dismal.  Why?  One reason is that a good PBL project isn't just a half page document but rather a lengthy, multiple page document.  It is difficult for any teacher to understand all the intricacies of the project by simply reading the document.  The main reason though is if a teacher pours a bit of themselves into the project, the students recognize that enthusiasm.  No personal attachment to the project from the teacher?  No buy-in from the students.

And that's why I don't share.

I explained this to a colleague from a different school last month and he laughed at me and said he would send me an email reminding me to send him a Social Studies 9 PBL project.  I was adament in my no.  Instead I briefed him on the driving question and end task we used and then suggested he work with the teacher librarian at his own school and come up with a project.

I hope he talks to his teacher librarian.  It could be the start of an incredible journey.

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