Innovation and Reflection

February 17, 2009 at 7:32 am | Posted in Collaboration, Planning, Project-based Learning, Shift | Leave a comment
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Rainforest projectsRecently our fourth grade science teacher wrapped up her Rainforest unit by giving a TurningPoint “clicker” survey to students allowing them to reflect on the content and project-based learning approach for the unit. (BTW, if you have experiences with TurningPoint where it is the BEST tool to use, please let me know?) Over the course of 7 weeks, groups of students moved through 5 centers/projects, spending a week (2.25 hours each week) on each project. Each center/project was content-based with the tasks involving drama, technology presentations (ppt), writing, drawing and 3 dimensional art.

During the survey, students showed that they most enjoyed the writing and tech presentation activities- the two centers using laptops. They also responded that they would have liked more time in each center and they preferred group-project learning to more traditional whole-class learning culminating with a test. Kim felt that fewer projects with more time per project would be more beneficial- the unit was very wide and not deep enough. On the whole, the experience was positive enough that we are now planning a similar approach to the next unit with adjustments based on the feedback from students and our own reflections.

What made it a success? First, Kim’s willingness to collaborate and innovate her facilitation of student learning for a standard content unit. Also, her foundation of guiding research questions, project rubrics plus project descriptions and questions. The research guide page in our school Moodle site provided a foundation for students at the start and for ongoing reference. Classroom support from parents and myself helped Kim facilitate group focus, reflection and troubleshooting. Finally, the opportunity for reflection by students and teacher and application of these observations on future planning is what ensures future success.

As wonderful as the experience was, I am always thinking, “How can it be better?”  I would add collaboration with others outside our campus. For example, email questions to expert scientists and environmentalists or create group projects with classes in other countries (similar to a Flat Classroom Project.) I also feel I need to learn more about project-based learning to more effectively implement and utilize the projects to optimize student learning, beginning with improving and creating more engaging unit and project questions.

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