The project comes to an end and the students have presented their work. Ideally, this is a time when we can all step back and celebrate. Then what?
Evaluation. Once the project is done, it is time to review what took place during the project. What were the aspects of the project that went well? What needs to be tweaked? Things to look at include the driving questions themselves and the direction they took the class (this seems like a good one to do with the students), the timeline of the project and the different skills needed to make the project flow better and become more relevant.
Who will you involve in the process?
- As I reflect on the project unit, it seems essential to have student input. It is easy for a teacher to feel like the work they have put in front of the students is interesting and meaningful. Students, one the other hand, may not feel that way. Developing a system for open and honest feedback is critical to continued development of that project unit. It is also important to get feedback from all teachers involved and from any “experts” who got to review the final project. Essentially, it seems like the more information coming in, the better the chances of making improvements.
What will your process look like?
The process of reflection will likely have many different looks. Personal reflection in the form of my own learning log, interviews with students and teachers involved and online evaluations that allow for anonymity all seem like valid ways to elicit information that can be used in project evaluation. ironically, even the process of valuating will likely have to be evaluated and tweaked over time (which answers the last question- Is this a one-time assessment?)
Having settled on a school garden as a project, I am quite optimistic about where I can go with this idea. In my vision for this project, students will start by seeing the issues that exist in our modern world of industrialized agriculture. Utilizing a film such as Food, Inc. I hope to help them see there is a problem. From there, they will learn alternatives through research and begin to design a small garden that will become part of the school. School gardens are not new, but the development of a garden seems to allow for so many learning opportunities across the field of biology. Students will learn about plant needs, photosynthesis, nutrient cycling, nutrition and more.
As far as tools go, it seems like a great opportunity for students to share what they learn with others. Development of a school garden website that can be a future resource for other class and school and some sort of multimedia project (I can see a public service announcement made by students) seem like very good, authentic forms of assessment. I am still struggling a bit on how to create an audience for the students. Ideas like fellow teachers, and students (maybe an assembly) see ok, but it keeps the work of my students within the school community. It would be nice to expand their audience beyond the school grounds. Perhaps involving parents would be a nice addition.
Is it PBL without an audience? I would have to say yes, as long as the students are motivated by the learning. However, most students need added incentive. This, in my mind, is where the audience comes in. By expanding the audience to include people outside of the students world, the motivation to do well increases. This comes not just as fear of looking foolish, though many students will see that, but as an opportunity to look great. A chance to make a difference. That is something that is different about today’s students- the work they do doesn’t just hang in hallways, it has the potential to impact society. So, while the project can carry on without an audience, clearly, students benefit from having one.