Scaffolding the PBL Shift
I remember my first year teaching freshmen Global Studies at a brand new Project Based Learning school. I was so excited to allow students to pursue their own paths in student centered learning. I gave them open-ended topics like imperialism to pursue with little guidelines and no rubrics. I thought the students could research and figure out what interested them and what was important all on their own.
Fairly soon the students started coming to me and begging for guidance, and it wasn’t limited to struggling students. The most vocal students were the ones who had gotten all A’s in traditional classes. Some of their complaints were based on the fact that they had previously understood the “game” of school and PBL had changed the rules of what it meant to be successful. Instead of just regurgitating back what the teacher said on the test, they now had to analyze and think critically for themselves.
But some of their complaints were legitimate. It was unrealistic of me to throw them into the deep end of the pool without first teaching them how to swim. They were like young Forrest Gump with his crooked back unable to walk correctly without his leg braces. Too much voice and choice before students are ready can paralyze them into a state of confusion and indecision….