|via @khkamps BIE PBL World|
Great project based learning is designed with student engagement in mind. Many a frustrated parent and teacher have complained of the short attention span of children but when students are engaged they have very little trouble focusing. Try tearing a kid away from an activity they truly love and this becomes quite apparent. As the Gallup Student Poll shows the decline in student engagement drops significantly as students become "educated". From the active excitement of elementary students to the displeasure of middle school to the outright anger of high school students we need to be asking this question: Why would we not design instruction in a way that engages students? The pitfall here is that we often design activities and lessons that we as teachers think should be engaging and then become frustrated when our students don't find it so interesting. I love supply and demand curves but my students, well not so much. What if we helped our students identify and problem-solve instances of cognitive dissonance? What if we allowed them to demonstrate their learning in ways that they enjoy? While this is a tough nut to crack I'm a firm believer that when we solve the engagement riddle the rest of the problems that we often face as teachers go away.
The art of great questioning is just that, an art. In the truest sense of craftsmanship refining this skill takes tremendous practice and sometimes leaves students frustrated. As teachers it's tempting to provide answers, and quite often students will plead for just that, but the power of leading student thinking through questioning fosters the type of critical thinking we're after. Outstanding PBL starts with a Driving Question that elicits interest and generates a multitude of student questions but it shouldn't stop there. As teachers and students evolve along the PBL continuum questioning becomes an integral part of daily activity. As they find answers new questions are generated, leading to new answers as the cycle of inquiry helps create self-evolving learners. Great inquiry is founded in divergent and open-ended questions with rich language that requires unpacking. Finding the "sweet spot" of productive struggle is sort of like Maslow's ideal of self-actualization, it's more of a journey than a destination.
Highly evolved teaching is a craft and an art where students and their work is our canvas. Releasing control and the focus from teacher to student is a liberating but scary step. As we refine our PBL practice there are more "secrets" to be revealed along the way. What kinds of hidden gems have you found in your journey?