PBL

Week Two: Life Mirrors Fiction

I had a really hard time choosing the title for this entry. Close runner ups were

Week Two – A Study Into the Effect of Personality-Based Groupings on Adolescents

or the less professional,

Week Two – Merlin’s Beard Is the Pottermore Sorting Quiz Actually Onto Something Or Am I Just Projecting ?!?

Regardless, while the second week of delving into cross-curricular adventures have had some swoon-worthy points for reflecting, I can not go past focusing on the observations I’ve had on our student grouping this week.

As discussed in my post, Week One: Welcome to a Curious Community, my PBL team and I organised for our class of 46 to do a range of quizzes on pottermore.com , primarily for the use of effective student grouping. The most convenient of which, were 4 groups of 8-12, according to their Hogwarts Houses.

house-crests1

Bless our lucky socks, somehow the students sorted themselves into similar sized groups.

The first barrier for us (teachers + students alike), was developing our capacity to work from teams of 4 to teams of 10. I highly recommend dedicating a portion of your initial lesson:

  • Setting expectations of effective ‘team work’ – what it looks and sounds like
  • Students identifying significant roles for each member \ (make Facilitator, Recorder and Reporter mandatory roles!)
  • Easy group-bonding tasks, such as “Set up your discussion table” (without any hints, I’m sure they can do this one together without help. Sometimes the less instruction give, the more learning happens!)

So far, setting up went without a hitch. After that however, the students’ first experience of working in such large teams for a learning activity went… well frankly for some it was a disaster.

Despite setting up our ‘likes and dislikes’ of how our class operates just mere days earlier, some Facilitators resorted to yelling at their group (a big class no-no!) or the team Mediator telling people to ‘calm down’ (I don’t know about you, but that does not make me feel calm).

That being said, this somewhat-of-a-disaster lesson made for some really valuable teaching moments. Whether they were 1-1 or 1-10, it allowed myself and my teaching buddy to divulge how similar our teaching struggles can be with this experience of working with a larger team, and give immediate constructive  feedback.

Our cross-curricular PBL approach also meant this didn’t stop at our lesson. We recounted our struggles and recommendations for the next pair of teachers, who were able to provide the students quality reflection time for how to improve the experience for next time.

Where It Got Interesting

Cue ‘next time’, the second-last PBL session of the week. The class is divided (for the third time that week) into their Houses, and tasked with simply making a House Banner with certain requirements (4 words, a quote, crest and team name/members) in 45 minutes.

Gryffindor + Hufflepuff quite clearly showed rapid development. From acute task delegating, to encouraging team work, they managed to design their House Banners with all requirements and the majority of the team’s involvement. It was nice to genuinely hear things like “Come on guys, we only have 10 minutes left” and “great idea [name], what if we put it like this…”

Ravenclaw + Slytherin, while definitely improving from last lesson, struggled to get off the ground. Team members worked largely in isolation, bringing ‘finalised’ ideas to the group and voting, and working on the banners 1-2 at a time. Many Slytherin members allowed a single student to write the majority of information (and vice versa, but let’s focus on the larger group’s responsibility), and Ravenclaw failed to keep their priorities in check and their team involved.

Interestingly, in our ‘Symbolism’ brainstorm earlier, Ravenclaw and Slytherin identified that while they were intelligent and cunning, they tended to be more ‘solitary’. Some students in these groups do have a solid understanding on their respective house traits, but what is most harrowing is how, after only 3 sessions, the House groups are actually mirroring qualities of their literary counterparts. Sure, it’s an isolated example, but when working closely with these students, and understanding their quirks and strengths, it’s kind of… eerie.

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Personality Traits – the grouping method of the Future?

I’m keen to see how these Houses continue developing (although it’s possible I should be submitting the rest of my lesson plans to a psych-ethics-committee). My team and I have discussed the potential impacts on future mixed-groups. At the very least, when students eventually form their own Project Groups, it will be interesting to note the houses of individual students, and how we can use those students for peer-to-peer teaching for effective teamwork.

But it’s got me thinking – what are the long term effects of this method of grouping? Surely it is beneficial for like-minded learners to be surrounded by each other. There are of course, the possible negatives of learners missing out on being ‘well rounded’ through their exposure to different learning/thinking styles. Right now, despite the downsides, I’m in favour of ‘personality’ grouping, for to really understand our roles in the world, we need to understand ourselves as learners first.

Miscellaneous Highlights

  • “Miss, we’re in Communities not groups”
  • Myself genuinely being able to say “10 POINTS TO HUFFLEPUFF” (I still get teary-proud of this career-defining moment)
  • In response to the class discussion on the question “Who doesn’t belong to the Wizarding Community”, we received the answer “Voldermort, and anyone who doesn’t confirm to the rules and expectations set out by the community”… I was foolishly expecting the answer “Muggles”…
  • A student submitting an absolute stellar recount of week 1 for our School newsletter! Genuine student voice!
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