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.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Planning, managing and Exhibiting Projects. Part Two- Managing

Aim for Adult- Adult Conversations.
Mark Moorhouse describes beautifully transactional analysis and the value of school building a community within our schools.

Simpy asking students to "speak as adults would", can be a game changer. Students take more responsibility, get involved in the decision making and it is a neat way to tackle any behaviour issues.

I think this example shows the students taking control of their own learning, and demonstrate a sophistication I rarely see in everyday lessons.

Invest time in building a classroom community.

Raise awareness of collaboration, teamwork and use the work community. Projects require these. It is also important to stop and reflect upon them. I wrote these questions and have found them useful.

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?

Use "Quality Criteria" to establish how you want the students to be.

The Critical skills approach is very useful in developing the learning dispositions that will lead to success. The simplest way of doing this is through the use of Quality Criteria. These can be on any relevant skill, from being a critical friend to drawing a scientific graph. The power lies in co-construction, use of teacher recommended models and feedback based around the criteria. Each project will present many opportunities for these, but it is important to focus on one at a time, and revisit this throughout. Think about what is important for your student and what they would find useful in the project.


"You are allowed to teach, during a project."

I hope that is clear.

Even if you had not planned to formally teach a lesson on an aspect of the project, but the assessments made it clear that it was needed, then teach. Formative assessments are as essential in project work as they are in any learning situation.

Why throw out the  baby with the bath water?

Use models to make clear what quality can be like.

These ideally should be student models, but teacher generated ones ( from doing the project first).
For example the current "Where should we bee project" has used a student model from "The Headlands project". It makes it clear what students need to include and what the quality might be like.

Use rubrics to reflect upon the quality of work.

On a simple level,a  co-constructed set of success criteria is a good start point. However, these can be used to create a rubric for an aspect of the project. by asking the students what the work would be like if they met the standard. Teachers of course can determine this themselves and give the students it. I prefer to co-construct it, as it allows me to

1. Teach the content again, in a different way.
2. Ensure the students feel their own the project and the work.
3. Ensure the students understand what they are being assessed on.

Once, I have "agreed" the standard then I will, work out what a stepping stone to that level might be like and what one step up might be like.

The example below is the rubric for the script for the Physics of the Olympics Project. Notice that the content, the literacy aspects and the project parts are all combined. They can't be separated out, just like real life.

Use Critique to teach,provide feedback and build community that leads to high quality work.

The first thing I noticed when I started using critiques, was what an opportunity to teach content, to an engaged audience. You can see the students thinking "If this piece of work is not perfect, what do I need to know to get it there!" Maybe I'm a bit slow, but I really did expect the conversation to be about bubble writing.

Asking good questions about the work are an essential part of teachers controlling these conversations. A policy of less is more is best here. Having two or three great focus questions are better than five rather pants ones. Students will drift off from them, but that is ok if the continue to talk about the work. Clear questions makes it easier to bring them back.

You may also want to consider having students pose their own "burning questions". So that they get the advice that they want to increase the quality of their work.

To carry out a critique students need to trust one another, so investing time in building a classroom community is essential. The feedback norms should always be used.Students understand these and seem to like them.

1.Hard on content, soft on people.
2.Step up, step back.
3.Feedback must be kind, helpful and specific.

listen to ‘Students discuss why they like Critiques’ on Audioboo

"Understand the importance of teamwork,and collaboration, community thinking and sharing ideas. This helps build teamwork,valuing critiquing people's work as important as completing your own." Josie and Emily

However, it is a Catch 22 situation as critiques are great way to establish that culture. So, my top advice is host critiques regularly on student work, not just on project work and debrief the critique so that it is obvious that everyone benefits from the critique of one piece of work.

listen to ‘What have you learned by giving feedback’ on Audioboo

By seeking "kind, positive or warm feedback" , obviously important for making people feel that their work is appreciated. Although the big reason for this goes way beyond this simple aim. It's more about looking at the work in an open minded way, finding what works, as well as what has not. Both the strengths and the weaknesses are useful. It is at this point that the critique becomes more about every students work, than it does about the individual work being scrutinised. By highlighting the strengths, students learn what quality work is like, and by teachers endorsing and interpreting these views we provide models of quality that students can then emulate.

This focus also, evinces the value of working with others, showing the dialetic nature of learning. Individuals benefit from the input from their community, but also the individuals can be benefit to their community.

This is why, as teachers we need to teach the procedural knowledge involved in taking part in a critique and offering feedback. We do this by modelling it in our own feedback, being metacognitive during critiques and providing feedback on the feedback being given. It teaches how to speak in a learning community:with respect, tolerance. compassion and focus on high academic standards.
The final aspect is more permeating. Critiques should lead to the process of critique becoming less formal. By this I mean it becomes part of how the community speaks to one another and these conversations becomes ubiquitous. Where students not only offer feedback to peers but actively seek it. They view each others work and offer praise and then suggest ways to improve it without prompt or scaffold. It's how we are as people. This is the ultimate aim of critiques.

Engage an audience.

This works on two levels. Firstly for the product itself, parents   and experts are great ways of keeping students motivated to produce quality work. Involving them as part of the process, through a critique, not only reminds them of this but, also gets them some expert advice. The Birdwatchers I worked with over the last three projects have been instrumental in this.

Secondly and more subtly is to engage an audience in the process, this I'm guessing will be fellow educators. Simply showing the students their blog hits and where in the world people have been looking in at their work clearly states "the people beyond the walls of this classroom are interested in the work you are doing."

Here's why  I think a project blog is important.

Please take a look at my current two projects.



Regularly debrief the learning and the process.

This old post is full of questions structures that will help unpack what is happening throughout the the project. The Metacognitive nature of this is vital, with Hatties meta- analysis giving these strategies an effect score of 0.69. These are not a luxury, but a vital part of ensuring learning is taking place throughout the project.

Maintain the community.
It is one thing to build community, but the real work is in the maintenance, This requires time, debrief and challenge for the students.

One strategy I use with all my classes is the "What good Learners do?", The interesting thing to notice is that this is an active document. It is used regularly whether things are going to plan or not.