Category Archives: PBL

Squeeze of the Test

We offered our first professional development this week to local teachers on PBL (project based learning). Since we are a lab school at the county level it was determined from the planning stages of our school to offer PD to the local districts.

One of my colleagues and I ran the PD session and I was struck by a couple of things. The teachers who attended did not ask very many basic questions about what PBL is or why it is a good pedagogical choice. Many of them had already used it in their classrooms in at least one project and were looking to further develop their understanding and practice of it. They did not need to be convinced to try PBL. In their districts they were the early adopters. They did ask questions about student motivation, managing the projects and groups, and grading.

The questions that hit me the most were questions about testing and assessment. They wanted to know how we assess; how we measure student growth (i.e. what standardized tests do we use and how often); were we concerned about how our students will do on the 11th grade state test (you know the BIG one).

Lifted from Trendblend

These teachers were obsessed with testing and assessment. But to be clear these questions were not asked in a skeptical or judgmental way. They were asking these questions because that is the climate that they live in back in their home districts. It was very clear to me that testing was very emphasized in their schools and although they wanted to shift to student-centered PBL they were concerned about how their students would do on tests. They were looking to be assured that if they went all in with a PBL classroom that their students would perform better on standardized tests. To me, test results are not a very important part of PBL at all. I believe in PBL because I think it encourages a better way to learn and develops important life skills such as collaboration and communication that won’t be on any test.

Even though I taught in one of these districts two years ago, I have forgotten how dominate the testing culture is in most schools today squeezing out everything else. I am truly blessed to be free from the fear of these tests. My students will take the tests and I sometimes worry about how they will do a little bit, but I do not teach in a climate that obsesses about them non-stop and makes them a key factor in every decision.

Other PBL teachers, how do you encourage teachers who want to shift to PBL but feel pressured by a test obsession culture?

National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!

Today was supposed to be the launch of our school’s greatest project ever including field trips to local factories. Unfortunately weather got involved and we had massive closings (our school buses in students from 20 different local districts) and our busing canceled the trip on us. We ended up with about 25% of our student body showing up so what should we do? Well when you are given lemons you make…bubble wrap!

On the way to work I heard that today is national bubble wrap appreciation day. So we took the protocols learned from Chad Sansing’s Flying Schools Educon session and adapted them to this “special” day. Students went through the design process creating new applications for bubble wrap.

 They made boats that really float 

 Bow ties are cool!
Animal Clothing
Gun target with paint in it that “pops” out when it is hit.
A steering wheel that you can pop when you are stressed. 

If you didn’t catch the reference this came from The Reichenbach Fall. 

All in all it turned into a good introduction to design thinking. We have a long ways to go in particular in the area of improving on our original ideas but it was a good first step and I look forward to implementing this kind of thinking into future projects.