Saturday, April 28, 2012

Project Based Learning

When my group and I first started thinking about how to plan a project based learning (PBL) activity, we didn't have a clue where to start. What we ended up coming up with was pretty astounding... I think. In order to think of something great, you first have to get into the minds of your students. Since my group had no students this was a little bit more difficult, but hey we made it work. You have to know what your're students like, perhaps more importantly what they DON'T like. It's important to know what will interest them because that becomes the motivator. PBL is NOT direct instruction. Project Based Learning is completely student centered, but obviously the teacher has a managerial roll to take on. During a PBL activity the student will take charge of his or her own learning. Seems a little risky? Well, it's honestly not. Not if you, as the teacher provide the right amount of structure to the project.

In the case of my group, we decided to create an imaginary classroom which had a learner diagnosed with Leukemia. Click here to see our plan. We used this as the foundation for our project. How do we, as a class, help the learner with Leukemia. We decided to set the guidelines for the project, but most of it was completely student lead. We thought that the fact of helping another individual was a way of teaching Health Literacy. Our PBL activity causes students to learn empathy, and it teaches them the importance of kind words and kind actions. These are both very powerful tools. Without going into the details of our hypothetical PBL Activity let me tell you how creating this project changed my mindset as an aspiring teacher.

One of the things I fear most about teaching is the planning aspect. How can I possibly plan learning experiences for a classroom full of students every day for an entire school year? It just doesn't seem possible to me... yet. Although I know that PBL isn't going to take place every day, learning about it gave me loads of more confidence as a future teacher. It opened up my eyes to all of the possibilities of teaching, and quite honestly gave me fresh perspective on the profession. Learning isn't only about the content, it's also about experience! As learners in this world we live though experiences every single day. Those experiences are what teach us everything we know. Think of it this way, how many facts from all the worksheets you've done in your life do you remember? School can't be about worksheets! School MUST be an environment susceptible for learning EXPERIENCES to occur. Yes, things like worksheets of facts can aid us, but we can't rely on them. It is the job of a teacher to give students authentic learning experiences, and Project Based Learning is definitely a step in the right direction!! 

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