Assessment & Project Based Learning

Student achievement is measured in a variety of ways in Project Based Learning.  Of course the end product is the most important, but we cannot solely focus on it.  We must acknowledge that meaningful learning takes place throughout the project.  In PBL students learn more than just content.  They learn how to work with others, solve problems, clearly present ideas, and learn from mistakes.  Assessment in PBL acknowledges not only what the student has learned, but also how they learned it so that they can use it again in the future.  

The first step in effective assessment is to establish clear performance targets.  In my project, My Dream Playground, students are presented with a driving question or problem to solve from the beginning.  I have also outlined the subject area content standards that will be addressed in the project and created summative assessment rubrics that list my expectations for the final project model and presentation.  Throughout the project, students collaborate with their group members as they complete pieces of the project and they reflect on their work as they complete their group project checklist and learning logs.  Weekly feedback will be provided to the individual students and groups to help them stay on track, and improve their work so that they can be successful with the final product.  

Each group’s final playground model and presentation will be there own.  They will be given criteria for what makes a good project, discuss the qualities of good work with their classmates and me, and be provided with examples of exemplary projects.  However, in the end, they will use their own ideas and work together to create their model and presentation and no two projects will be exactly the same.

In order to meet the math standards for this project, the students will be taught how to measure, and find area and perimeter in a hands on way. We will do this by using the math worksheets I created and going out to the playground location to answer the questions.  Formative assessments of these worksheets and weekly quizzes will help me figure out who is understanding the concepts and who needs more help as the project progresses.    

When this project is finished, we will all reflect on its successes.  I will fill out an evaluation for how I felt the project went.  My students will also complete a self evaluation and peer evaluation and also reflect on the project as a whole–what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they learned, etc.   

My students have not had a whole lot of experience with self and peer evaluation.  I will need to spend time teaching my students how to take ownership of their own learning and take pride in their work.  We will also need to discuss constructive criticism and how to offer suggestions to others as they work on their projects and presentations.  I created a rubric for the peer evaluation of the practice presentations, but I would rather use that rubric as a teaching point with the students and have them help me edit it to make it their own once we have completed lessons on self and peer evaluation.   

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What is Project Based Learning?

 

Project Based Learning is an instructional method where students actively work for an extended period of time to investigate and solve a real-world question, problem, or challenge in order to obtain knowledge and skills.  Students work with a partner or small group to perform research, present the material they have learned in the form of a project, and obtain feedback for their learning (BIE, n.d.).  

Project based learning and problem based learning have many similarities, but also some subtle differences.  Larmer (2015) identifies these differences between project based learning and problem based learning:

  • Project based learning often incorporates many subjects. Problem based learning most often applies to one subject.
  • Project based learning may take weeks or months.  Problem based learning tends to be shorter.
  • Project based learning has many steps.  Problem based learning has specific steps.
  • Project based learning includes the creation of a product in some form.  The final product in problem based learning can be a product or a proposed solution in written form or as a presentation.
  • Project based learning uses real world scenarios and tasks.  Problem based learning uses case studies or fictitious scenarios for investigation.   

Teachers should consider incorporating project based learning into the classroom because it moves students away from using rote memorization of information to pass a test.  After memorizing information for the test, students tend to forget what they have learned.  The hands on approach of project based learning capitalizes on student interest and provides real-world scenarios in order for them to obtain skills and knowledge.  Project based learning prepares students for the real world beyond their education.  It teaches students how to think critically, collaborate with others, and effectively communicate what they have learned to a larger audience.     

The Buck Institute for Education (n.d.) includes these essential components as part of project based learning:

  • The project should be focused on student learning based on content standards and skills including critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.   
  • The project should be focused on addressing the answer to a problem, question, or challenge.
  • Students should seek answers to questions through inquiry, research, and application.
  • The projects should have real world applications.
  • Students should have a voice in the project.  They can choose how they work and what they create.  
  • Students and teachers should reflect on learning including the effectiveness of the inquiry, the project activities, the quality of work, obstacles that were encountered and how they were overcome.
  • Students should give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process or products.
  • Students should publicly display or present their project to people outside of the classroom.

 

Larmer, J. (2015, July 13). Project-based learning vs. problem-based learning vs. x-bl. In edutopia. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-vs-pbl-vs-xbl-john-larmer

What is project based learning (PBL)?. (n.d.). In BIE. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

 

Vision Statement for Integrating Technology into Teaching

 

Classroom Technology

Technology is all around us and can be linked to everything we do including shopping, paying bills, playing, and connecting with people. With its increased presence in our lives, it only makes sense for technology to be available in the classroom.  Technology provides increased learning opportunities for our students and should be embraced and integrated into their educational experience.

An educator’s goal should be to provide the best possible education for his or her students.  Part of this is to prepare our students for the workforce and the world after they leave school.  This may mean moving away from traditional or objectivist models of teaching and providing students with a more constructivist approach that provides students with the ability to work more independently and collaboratively with others both in person and online. (Roblyer, 2016, p. 50).   As technology grows and changes, we must do the same in order to help prepare our students for the future.  We must teach our students to properly utilize the technology that exists today so that they will be able to incorporate it into their future careers.   

When integrating technology, an educator’s role is to decide which learning approach best suits the learning activity and the students needs.  Both directed learning based on objectivism and inquiry based learning based on constructivism contribute essential elements to instruction that involves the use of technology.  Directed learning provides the foundational skills for students and ensures that prerequisite skills are learned. Inquiry based instruction allows students to generate knowledge through experiences (Roblyer, 2016, p. 48-50).  

With the use of technology in the classroom, students and teachers have instantaneous and more current resources available to them and allows for differentiation among students.  Technology allows teachers to help students find materials that best meet their needs.  Directed learning through the use of apps and websites can support students who need more practice with skills like reading and math through the use of drill and practice software.  Other softwares can provide more accelerated students with self directed, inquiry learning for topics that school may not address.  Students can privately work at their own pace while receiving immediate feedback.  Both directed learning and constructivist models can be applied through the use of simulation software when helping students understand difficult math and science concepts, and the internet can connect students with information and research that they might not be able to find locally in books or libraries.  (Roblyer, 2016, page 50).  Technology also allows teachers to quickly assess students learning and track student progress and decreases time to provide feedback to their students.  It also saves money and time by taking the place of printed worksheets and handouts that are used and replaced each year  (Roblyer, 2016, p. 22-23).   

As we bring technology into the classroom, we will be able to prepare our students to be responsible digital citizens.  Our students will be digital citizens for the rest of their lives both inside and outside the classroom.  By integrating technology in the classroom, educators can help students learn to build positive and safe online social relationships  and think critically about the content they read online.  The proper use of technology in the classroom will help our students learn the best and most responsible way to use it in their lives (Mathis, 2015).   

Technology provides more access to teachable moments. With technology at their fingertips, students will be able to look up information they do not know and examples and models of subject matter they are studying.  Technology provides a reinforcement for lessons in a way that is interesting and fun for the students and allows educators to expand their lessons and challenge their students to find out more about what they are learning.  

Technology is a powerful tool in education; however, it requires the combined support of educators, schools, districts, the local community, and the state in order to be implemented effectively. In order to successfully integrate technology, schools and districts must coordinate planning and involve teachers and technology coordinators at all stages of planning.  Money should be budgeted every year to make technology purchases and upgrades.  Professional development must be provided for teachers to be well-trained and up-to-date on skills.  Finally, technology should be used to meet curriculum needs.  (Roblyer, 2016, p. 65).  

References:

Mathis, M. (2015). Technology in the classroom: 5 undeniable reasons to embrace it. In Teachhub.com. Retrieved from http://www.teachhub.com/5-undeniable-reasons-why-educators-should-embrace-technology-classroom

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (Seventh ed., pp. 22-65). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Picture found through the Creative Commons, no changes were made: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrpetersononline/5041842516

     

Social Learning

I have created a Popplet to portray the relationship between the learning theory Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks, and Communities of Practice.  The middle picture shows an example of all the technological resources that are available to gain and share knowledge.  It is in the middle because technology can be used for all three of these concepts.  While each concept has its own unique characteristics and can stand alone, there is one commonality that links them together–technology.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens promote the learning theory called Connectivism. They believe that learning occurs through connections made among a series of networks where knowledge is shared  (Education-2020, para.1).  Connectivism begins with an individual.  The individual’s knowledge is part of a network.  The network feeds information into an organization or institution and these provide knowledge back to the individual through the connections they have formed.  The individual must be able to acquire the skill to access this information in order to enhance their knowledge. Connectivism is a model of learning that acknowledges that learning is no longer an individual activity.  Learning happens when individuals use tools to work with others to obtain knowledge especially within our current digital age  (Siemens, 2004).

Communities of Practice and Personal Learning Networks stem off of the theory of Connectivism.  Within both areas of professional development, an individual makes connections with others and can shares resources, ideas, and collaborate, using a global network.   Communities of practice are made up of a group of people who are not novices on a topic working together to share what they know so that members of the group gain a deeper understanding and knowledge for the topic  (Bates, 2014).  There are three characteristics of a community of practice.  There has to be a topic or theme, a community of members interested in that topic or theme, and ideas, tools, knowledge, and shared resources that will advance inquiry forward for that idea or theme (Moore, 2016).  A community of practice is an informal group of people who join based on interest in the topic or idea and their ability to contribute to the group.  In the picture I chose to portray a community of practice, the people are all interested in solving the puzzle.  They are all working together to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.  Thanks to technology, a community of practice builds groups among organizations and can extend past geographic boundaries.

Personal Learning Networks are similar to Communities of Practice but they are more individualized.  In a Personal Learning Network (PLN), an individual has developed their own network of resources to help make them better at what they do.  These networks can be developed through in-person relationships or online through social media such as Twitter, Facebook. Blogs, etc.  A PLN is adaptive to an individual’s needs and one can control the subject matter to be studied.  In a PLN, one can decide whether to “lurk” or read the postings without making contributions or share their own experiences and knowledge with the group (Catapano, para 1, 4, 5,6 ).  Through the picture I provided one can see that a PLN can extend all around the globe, is always available, and people are always sharing and obtaining information.

To take a look at my Popplet, please click on the link below:

http://popplet.com/app/Popplet_Alpha.swf?page_id=3307498&em=

References:

Bates, T. (2014, October 1). The role of communities of practice in a digital age. In online learning and distance education resources. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/01/the-role-of-communities-of-practice-in-a-digital-age/

Catapano, J. (n.d.). What is a PLN? Why do I need one?. In TeachHub. Retrieved from http://www.teachhub.com/what-pln-why-do-i-need-one

Connectivism. (n.d.). In Education 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2016, from http://education-2020.wikispaces.com/Connectivism

Moore, C. G. (2016, January 26). Communities of practice: Sharing and building knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.deltafoundation.net/teacher-efficacy/tea-i-cohort-cop-webinar-series

Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. In elearnspace. Retrieved from http://202.116.45.236/mediawiki/resources/2/2005_siemens_Connectivism_A_LearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf