So the project with the websites went pretty well, however this being my first experience in PBL, it was a definite learning experience for both me and the kids. Here are a few things I learned.
1) Authentic assessment motivates them – especially when negative feedback is given. We had the Lake County Republicans assess the student sites based upon a rubric that the students created. When I said I wasn’t grading them, the degree of intensity seemed to shift up a bit in the class – I am going to chalk that up to relevance. When one of the websites was harshly criticized for being inaccurate (which it was) and more than slightly biased (which it was), the feedback wasn’t met with apathy but instead a sense of shame/embarrassment for each other that an outside person thought this lowly of their work. A definite learning experience for the students to be sure (this class in particular wasn’t organized nor did they put a lot of effort in to the project at first – we compromised after the feedback and gave them a 2nd chance to re-submit which they did.
2) Student motivated learning isn’t always learning. Admittedly I let the pendulum swing too far the other way on this one – in that I gave them very little direct instruction but instead made them come up with some questions that they wanted to have answered. I revised my plan about halfway through and made sure they found out some other answers as well (such as the difference between a primary and a general election, etc.) I learned that direct instruction is ok from time to time as long as it fans the flames of the students’ curiosity and gets them asking deeper questions. Lesson learned for next semester.
3) My students don’t like freedom. Ok, well they do like freedom, but they don’t know what to do with it in schools. When I said, “ok…create” the excitement of freedom quickly turned into sheer terror because they were responsible for the end product that I wasn’t going to hold their hands through it. For as much as they wanted freedom in school – when they got it they certainly didn’t know what to do with it. They adjusted as the project moved on.
4) I enjoy being the guide on the side and letting the students figure problems out. That was a side of teaching I had yet to experience until last month.
It truly was a learning experience for both teacher and student! I look forward to revising those plans next year and making the lesson even stronger. Off to ICE 2012 to learn about new tools and new ways to learn.