As I am writing this posting, I am picturing my own classes I had back in Russia, all the way from the elementary school through college - nothing but boring lectures. Any projects or discussions?....cannot think of even one. All that comes to memory are those endless lessons with the teachers reciting the textbooks by heart, hour after hour, class after class, year after year. The most vivid picture is of one professor marching across the room, from the window to the door and back, a "speaking textbook", with no eye contact...Do I remember what he was teaching then? You know the answer.
So, the Driving Question has been developed, and now it is time for the students to research, pose and answer questions, made conclusions, articulate, explain, and develop their own new understanding of the subject - all those exciting and engaging activities!
While working on the project this semester, I was researching for available research on teaching ESL through PBL. At some point, it appeared that PBL had mostly been used for K-12 education across various discipline and subjects. The search, however, turned out to be fruitful: I discovered a great book edited by Beckett, G.H. and Miller, P.C.: "Project-Based Second and Foreign Language Education. Past, present, and Future". Below I will share some of the most important points related to PBL and ESL:
I. Quotations related to major features of PBL:
"Projects are multi-skill activities focusing on topics or themes rather than on specific language targets...Because specific language aims are not prescribed, and because students concentrate their efforts and attention on reaching and agreed goal, project work provides students with opportunities to recycle known language and skills in a relatively natural context" (Beckett and Miller, 2006, p.23)
This week are working on the assessment part of the project - both formative and summative. Even though PBL differs from the traditional approach to both teaching and learning, the teacher has a role of facilitator rather than of a traditional teacher, the students' learning is very likely to take an "unexpected" path, yet the assessment remains an important part of the project.
Firstly, each project should be designed with standards and learning objectives in mind: what does the project aim to achieve? what knowledge, information, or skills are the students expected to learn and master? How are their achievements expected to be assessed?
Therefore, both formative and summative assessments should be carefully designed before implementing the project. It's important to plan for peer assessment, self assessment (surveys and reflective writing), as well as teacher assessment - tests, quizzes, writing products, oral presentations, etc.
More on the assessment for PBL can be found here: Assessment.
Source: Our class materials.
This week we are starting working on our new projects, and the first steps are to develop the project idea and its driving question. The driving question is at the core of the project and defines if the project will be successful or not.
How to choose an idea? It did not take me long: last semester my intermediate Reading and Writing class read a book on Martin Luther King, Jr. As we were covering one chapter after another, my students were discovering new facts of American history. They were obviously interested in the topic and engaged in that "mini" research in order to answer the questions that I provided them with. Looking back, despite their interest, it was me who developed the questions, prepared all the visual and media files, composed those fancy power point and prezi presentations, and possibly learned the most...Finally, as I was reading our campus newspaper about the BSU students involved into various projects and marchers on MLK Day, I started thinking about creating a project that will allow my students learn about MLK and American history, yet it would be them who creates the questions and presentations, and possibly expand the classroom boundaries.
So, here it is!
The Project Idea:
This project was designed for English as a Second Language (ESL) college level learners who study English for Academic purposes at an American university. In addition to the language, the students are introduced to American history and culture.
Every Spring semester, students celebrate MLK Day; however, often without knowing historical and cultural significance of this Holiday, as well as how it is celebrated by American people in general and university students in particular.
Who was Dr. King? What role did he play in American history? Why and how do American people celebrate this day? Complete this PBL to find out!
During the 8-week session students will read the book on MLK: "I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World" . Additionally, they will complete research about MLK's life and personality, as well as his role in history. Specifically, students will conduct research using the Internet sources as well as by interviewing American people - on campus or in the community. As the students also work on their academic skills, specifically reading and writing academic English, they will be introduced to the following themes: audience, essay structure and organization, developing a clear topic sentence and thesis statement, writing short summaries, and citing sources. Finally, students will present their finding and what their learned about MLK in their final writing piece (essay).
The Driving Question and Sub-questions:
Driving Question: "I Have a Dream": whose words are these and what do they mean?
"I Learn Best by Doing..."
(...one of my students)
Summer Semester 2012 is going to be very busy - this semester I am taking a Project Based Learning course toward my EDTECH degree.
My first assignment was to answer the following questions:
Question 1: Define Project Based Learning:
Answer: The key words for Project Based Learning (PBL) are: innovative, intrinsic motivation, higher-order thinking, authentic learning, 21 century skills, problem solving, engagement, collaboration, effective communication, students' inquiry, student-driven, and teacher-facilitated. Music to teachers' ears! Describing briefly, PBL is an innovative approach to learning which allows students to identify a concept of interest, conduct the research, and critically analyze the findings. Thus, learning becomes student-driven, as opposed to teacher-driven, which, in turn, increases students' motivation to proceed. Moreover, PBL is not a "supplementary activity" to support learning (Bell, 2010); rather, it is the curriculum concept taught through a project (Bell, 2010.)