This year I have one year 7 class. Yes, only one class. I’m a high school teacher so this is a massive change. The year 7 class I have is an integrated curriculum class. This means I have them for English, Maths, Science, History and Geography. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to try out project based learning. For the past 8 weeks or so, we have been working on a project called 60 second science where students worked in teams to produce a video lasting no longer than 60 seconds. Students can choose a topic for their video from astronomy, classification or microbes. We just had our last “project session” for this project. The majority of groups have now submitted their videos. Here is one of the videos:
In one of my previous posts, I have said one of the biggest challenges in project based learning was students’ self regulation skills. While the majority of students worked really well, there was a small group of students who regularly walked around, didn’t stay with their teams and did not focus on the task for lengthy periods of time. Even when they had to state their goals at the beginning of their project sessions and had mid session checkpoints, they still had difficulties staying on track. To put things in perspective, these students work really well in traditional learning activities. When we do quizzes, maths worksheets and other teacher-centred activities they are your perfect students.
In my previous post, I said I would need to put more checkpoints into the project process. But I wasn’t sure what I would do in these checkpoints. Do I just simply ask the students whether they are on track? Do I look at their work and say they’re doing well? I knew if I don’t do something different, the next project will involve me telling off the same students by constantly reminding them to stay with their teams and stay on task. I want my students to self regulate and doing this won’t allow them to develop those skills. I’m also not a big fan of using fear to force students to self regulate (well, it’s not really self regulation if you have to threaten detentions for students to stay on task).
So I’ve decided to undertake an action learning project. I had an inkling that the students who experienced difficulties in self regulation didn’t know how they were progressing during their projects. They were thrown into an eight week project without regularly knowing what things they were doing effectively and what things they need to improve on. While I did have the project broken up into four phases, it didn’t have a formalised way for students to self assess. So I’m doing an action learning project to find out whether formalised feedback cycles will improve student regulation in project based learning.
I’ve so far collected some baseline data from the weekly survey I give to my students.
The data shows that a small group of students:
- don’t know what the team’s goals were
- did know what their team’s goals were but did not know what they can do to help their team achieve those goals
- didn’t know how to negotiate with their team
From the data I think I had a few lost lambs in the classroom, who knew they were meant to be creating a video, who had done their scripting and storyboarding, but couldn’t piece them together.
So for their next project, I will be embedding feedback cycles in the form of goals, medals and missions, which we already use for our writing tasks. Our next project will be The Parthenon Project. It will involve Year 7s building a model Parthenon that follows the golden ratio, a somewhat “magical” number that the ancient Greeks used a lot in their architecture and art (and we still use today). Year 7s will be able to construct their Parthenon in Minecraft or with other materials like Lego. The project will have four stages: (1) Research and project planning; (2) Planning the Parthenon; (3) Constructing the Parthenon; and (4) Presenting the Parthenon. Each stage will involve student self assessment and teacher self assessment to allow students to monitor their own progress and learning process. The assessment will be based on a product that students produce at the end of each stage.
Students will continue to complete their weekly survey and that data will be used to see whether the feedback cycle will have any impact. The Parthenon Project starts this Friday. I’ll keep you updated. 🙂