And just like that we’re two months into the term. There’s been several moments this term I’ve tried to pause and feel the passage of time, but it always gets away. At least this year I’m in a much better routine for pausing to reflect, and I wanted to spend some time critically thinking about how the PBL course is going.
What is PBL? Project-based learning; Problem based learning, Project blob learning…I’ve done a whole post on PBL before, but that was our intended meaning. So what has it turned into?
Intention #1 – Interdisciplinary
I can only speak for one of three streams, but I do still feel it is an inter-disciplinary way of approaching the curriculum. Myself and my partner have seamlessly combined English and HASS curricular in a meaning way – the highlight being our Viking Democracy + persuasive speaking lessons.
Yet at this stage, I don’t feel we’ve successfully integrated all four learning areas together. Sadly, we’re still constricted by timetables, and I feel that’s a barrier to genuinely teaching english/science or HASS/maths in an interdisciplinary way. Maybe swapping teaching partners in the future, or maybe have some
complicated super-fancy rotating timetable would be awesome. The most practical method would be to have shared planning time for ALL lessons… but how do we find the time? Maybe next term, creating more intentional tasks to be used across three different disciplines will be a step in the right direction.
Intention #2 – Soft Skills Development
For those new to the buzz word, soft skills are
Often used to describe the skills which characterise relationships with other people, or which are about how you approach life and work.
Others phrases that are often used for these types of skills include: ‘people skills’, ‘interpersonal skills’, ‘social skills’ or ‘transferable skills’.
Read more at: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/soft-skills.html
While I don’t have any “hard” data, I have a whole lot of anecdotal. Students have improved in their quality of classroom discussions and opinions. We’ve explicitly scaffolded how to have ‘team meetings’ according to an agenda, and some have taken that to the next stage of doing it independently – Our Gryffindors successfully had their own ‘Thing’ and made democratic decisions on several agenda items without any intervention from a teacher~!
We’ve had a big focus on growth mindset and “thinking about their thinking”. Weekly reflection writing has focused on how to apply learning to the future, or other scenarios. The majority of students are now able to identify their decision-making process and skills/ideas they used.
Yet, kids are kids, and they haven’t quite got the hang of diplomatically resolving team tensions, or solely having independent initiative to get a job done without being hounded by a teacher. Maybe one day.
Intention #3 – Higher Student Engagement.
I’ve tried my hardest for this not to be riddled with my own enthusiastic-bias, but I really do think my PBL class are more engaged, more involved and more dedicated to their year 8 predecessors.
I’m not sure what kind of
witchcraft combination of educational philosophies achieved it, but it has resulted in
- Six students volunteering their own time at our recent Open Night to talk about their projects and PBL experience.
- Three parents telling me that their child “is a different kid since coming to high school…for the better”
- Two project teams spending extra time for their major project, including making appointments with our principal independently (!!!) and arranging people to be interviewed at a cosplay convention (!!!!!)
- A 90% average attendance rate for my HG (If my flimsy calculations are correct).
Our classes, while sometimes crazy, have been a downright joy for me to teach. Maybe I’m lucky with an amazing cohort of students, or an amazing team of PBL teachers, but if it is already having a positive effect on students (and teachers alike), we must be doing something right.
Where to from here?
The madness continues right up to the end of term, where we’ll have our big showcase day, and some actual graded assessment (shudder).
I’d like to say that I’m concerned about the lack of curriculum we are covering but… I’m really not. I’d much rather have a deep discussion about the greater good and its ties to future decision making, then covering the concept briefly so we still have time to cover the grammatical content for the week. I plan on teaching authentically and rising to students curiosity, regardless on how related to the curriculum it is.
I still have some doubts, that this could just be “the latest trend in education and will inevitably crash and burn and lead the way for some other fashionable educational trend that will also inevitable crash and burn”... Yet I’m young and feel entitled to hold on to my inexperienced optimism.
Ultimately, my plan is to strive forward with PBL for as long as I can. As a teacher, I’m happier than I’ve ever been to come to school each morning, and have a genuinely strong connection with the students in my class. If that’s the only outcome from this experiment, then it’s still worth it.