My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Project Based Learning -Avoiding the Content Trap

I've made a mistake. I knew I would. I have been drawn into the content trap, again.

"We can build projects that engage students in their cultural roots and yet are academic projects to the core." Ron Berger.

I always start projects with the best of intentions of balancing  content and the skills and attributes, that's why I value projects. Projects can help build that classroom community so vividly described in Ron Bergers work, but buidling community takes time. Time, that in the heat of the moment seems too short to "fit" all the content, that culminate in the ever eating thoughst of " I'll just give them  more minutes to finish this task", and "they need to know this....." Content is dominating.

"My ethic of excellence runs deep, we care for where we live, the people here, not just our academic skills" Ron Berger.

The result is evident in our class blog. Barely any student reflection, student work, resources , class discusion are all there, but the time for all of us to take stock and value one another is missing. So far only two out of the three classes doing this project have had a whole classs discussion about how they are getting on. Even these were sparse in their conversations. Most of the reflection has been on a one to one basis and fleeting. I've made no time for our community. In fact, the class that have not had a whole class discussion are the class that need it the most. It's time we got back to what makes us good people and what good learning communities do.

"Building and maintaining a positive community takes constant vigilance. It's a job that's never really done....." Ron Berger.

So here's the plan.

The next lesson for all classes will start with a simple round robin discussion. Each student will be given one of these questions and a moment to compose a response. All responses will be accepted. Using a round robin allows me not to run the conversation, students will be asked to jump in, piggy back on answers, and agree and disagree. They, the community, will lead the conversation.

The questions are unashamedly positive (only one or two ask for potential negatives), I'm hoping for a small celebration of us as people, of what we can be like. If this does not happen and students don't have examples of listening well to one another or  been trustful of one another then that's O.K too. This task will at the very least raise the profile and the desirability of these qualities. It prompts a need to be emulative. I'm hopeful that it will further strengthen our classroom community.

How have you shown trust to others?
Who has helped you the most during this project? Why?
Who has impressed you so far during this project? Why?
When did you listen to someone very well? How did you do it?
When has someone listened to you carefully during this project?
What are the strengths of your team?
What are the strengths of the people in this class?
Who in your team has worked hardest during this project so far?
How do you feel about the class blog show casing your project?
How do you feel about inviting people from home into see your projects?
Describe a time when someone has helped you during this project?
Describe a time when you have said Thank you to someone during this project?
Describe a time when you have complimented someone’s work during this project?
Describe a time when someone has complimented your work.
Describe how someone’s feedback has made your work better.
Describe when you have given feedback to someone.
Describe when someone has distracted you from your work.
Have you distracted someone from their work.
How have you motivated someone in your group?
How has someone motivated you?
How has negotiating help your project?
How has critique helped your project?
How have you shared the responsibility during this project?
How have you made agreements as a team?
How have you discussed your project as an “adult” would?
What talents have the people in your team brought to the project?


Here is a recording showing these questions in use, although no discussion took place each student contributed in a sophisticated and positive way.I think the culture of this class is evident lets hope it shows and develops with  all  classes.