“I didn’t feel like I was teaching” – journey in leading others in PBL

But I didn’t feel like I was teaching

One of the teachers on my faculty (let’s call her Ann for this post) said this to me during our scheduled discussion on her professional goals. At the start of the year, Ann said her professional goal for 2013 was to implement project based learning (PBL) in her Year 9 class.

After looking at the BIE website for a while and attending one of Ashley Cantanzariti’s PBL workshop, Ann created crowd-sourced a driving question for this term’s unit for her Year 9 class with a cross-school group of teachers (this happened in our school’s School Development Day which involved our community of schools). We came up with the driving question of “Will an earthquake or tsunami happen in Sydney?”. The only teacher-centred lesson that Ann gave was the introduction lesson to let the students know the expectations and organisation of their new project. The class sorted themselves into groups and brainstormed what they needed to find out for this project. Ann used Edmodo for students to collaborate and upload their progress of work so she could give them feedback. After several weeks, the groups of students presented their findings to the driving question by choosing whatever medium they thought was appropriate. Some groups chose GoAnimate while other groups made a diorama.

When we were discussing whether Ann thought PBL was very effective for her students to learn science, one of the most memorable things she said was

They found out what an epicenter was, the focus and all other features of earthquakes by themselves. I didn’t have to even tell them.”

This ties in with the first quote on this blog post. Ann expressed that she didn’t feel like she was “teaching” because the students were driving so much of the learning. She recognised that most of the “work” was done prior to the project in designing the driving question and the workflows of how students will submit drafts of work, receive feedback and revise their work, but it was so different to what she was used to she felt like she was not teaching. Her concept of teaching was changing from content deliverer to learning designer and facilitator.

I often feel this way as well. When my students are happily working in their groups, finding answers to their own questions, negotiating with others on what sort of product to make and reflecting on their goals, I often feel like I’m not their teacher or even needed in the classroom. I know that for effective learning to happen students are working harder than teachers (or just as hard) and an effective teacher makes themselves redundant overtime. However, both and I are still somewhat influenced by the traditional notion of teaching – that teaching is a teacher telling students what they need to know. This often challenged concept still has a lot of pull on what both teachers and students perceive learning to be.

Overall this is a step forward for our faculty in terms of changing pedagogies. Instead of only me doing PBL, we now have another teacher implementing PBL and talking to others about how good it is for students.

5 thoughts on ““I didn’t feel like I was teaching” – journey in leading others in PBL

  1. Thanks for sharing. Great to hear about how teachers in an Australian setting go about introducing changes to the way they teach. Especially, how Ann found her driving question, and how she used Edmodo and how the kids used GoAnimate. Great ideas – thanks!

  2. Hey Alice,
    It looks lie you’ve achieved what many leaders find the most difficult – getting an idea adopted and built upon by another person.
    Just a couple of contextual questions – what classes are you doing PBL with? Streamed top or bottom classes, mixed ability classes, learning opportunity classes? What year group are you using?
    And as far as classroom management strategies go, can you give an insight into what you and you colleague do? Do you have processes and routines that you follow?

    Cheers, Jonesy

    • Hi Jonesy. The classes that “Ann” did PBL was the top Year 9 class. I have done PBL with top Year 7 and 8 classes and also a mixed ability Year 8 ESL class (This was only for one unit as I was taken off that class after 5 weeks).

      In terms of classroom management strategies, Ann has said that in PBL you have to stay on top of the students submitting their drafts and she used Edmodo to help her. So in every lesson the students had to upload whatever they have worked on onto Edmodo so she can check how they are working and give feedback. She mentioned that this was a bit different to a traditional classroom because not everyone was doing the same thing at the same time. Eg. You can’t go through the answers to a worksheet and have students tick their answers as a way of accountability.

      Personally I use goal setting as a routine. Students have to upload their goal onto Edmodo at the start of a lesson and the comment on their goal at the end to say how they have progressed.

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