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Project-Based Learning: Yes, I Can!
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Project-Based Learning: Yes, I Can!


An overview of project-based learning and Understanding by Design. Participants are given the opportunity to start creating their own project-based learning units. The presentation took place at two …

An overview of project-based learning and Understanding by Design. Participants are given the opportunity to start creating their own project-based learning units. The presentation took place at two different building-based professional development sessions. I presented with another educator from my district.

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  • 1. PBL Yes, I Can! Welcome Please locate our Moodle 2 course. In the top right, enter PBL in the search window. You may review the schedule or begin reading, "8 Essentials for Project Based Learning."
  • 2. The Twin Sins of Design: Activities For two weeks every fall, all the 3rd grade classes participate in a unit on apples. The 3rd graders engage in a variety of activities related to the topic. In language arts, they read about Johnny Appleseed and view an illustrated filmstrip of the story. They each write a creative story involving an apple and then illustrate their stories using tempera paints. In art, students collect leaves from nearby crab apple trees and make a giant leaf-print collage that hangs on the hallway bulletin board adjacent to the 3rd grade classrooms. The music teacher teaches the children songs about apples. In science, they use their senses to carefully observe and describe the characteristics of different types of apples. During mathematics, the teacher demonstrates how to scale up an applesauce recipe to make enough for all the 3rd graders. Understanding by Design (p. 1)
  • 3. The Twin Sins of Design: Activities A highlight of the unit is the field trip to a local apple orchard, where students watch cider being made and go on a hayride. The culminating unit activity is the 3rd grade apple fest, a celebration in which parents dress in apple costumes and the children rotate through various activities at stations - making applesauce, competing in an apple word-search contest, bobbing for apples, and completing a math skill sheet containing word problems involving apples. The fest concludes with selected students reading their apple stories while the entire group enjoys candy apples prepared by the cafeteria staff. Understanding by Design (p. 2)
  • 4. The Twin Sins of Design: Activities ● To what ends is the teaching directed? ● What are the big ideas and important skills to be developed during the unit? ● Do the students understand what the learning targets are? ● To what extent does the evidence of learning from the unit (e.g., the leaf-print collage, the creative-writing stories, the completed word searches) reflect worthwhile content standards? ● What enduring understandings will emerge from all of this? Understanding by Design (pp. 2-3)
  • 5. The Twin Sins of Design: Coverage It's late April and the panic is beginning to set in. A quick calculation reveals to the world history teacher that he will not finish the textbook unless he covers an average of 40 pages per day until the end of school. He decides, with some regret, to eliminate a short unit on Latin America and several time-consuming activities, such as a mock UN debate and vote and discussions of current international events in relation to world history topics they've studied. To prepare his students for the departmental final exam, it will be necessary to switch into a fast-forward lecture mode. Understanding by Design (p. 2)
  • 6. The Twin Sins of Design: Coverage What do students remember, much less understand, when there is only teaching with no opportunity to really learn - to work with, play with, investigate, use - the key ideas and points of connection? Such an approach might correctly be labeled, "Teach, test, and hope for the best." Understanding by Design (p. 2)
  • 7. Differentiated Instruction ● Differentiate through teams ■ Heterogeneous grouping vs. Homogeneous grouping ● Reflection and goal setting ■ Where does formative assessment fit in? ● Mini-lessons ■ Follow-up to formative assessment ● Voice and choice in products ■ Allow students to show what they know in a variety of ways ● Differentiate through formative assessments ■ Can depend on final product. May include conferences, written responses, graphic organizers, collages, etc. ● Balance teamwork and individual work ■ Some students learn better on their own, and others learn better in a team Adapted from
  • 8. Formative Assessment Formative assessment is a planned process in which teachers or students use assessment-based evidence to adjust what they're currently doing. When initiating a new unit of instruction, a teacher must always give students three clarifications: 1. The nature of the immediately upcoming curricular aim to be mastered - that is, the skill or body of knowledge students are supposed to learn; 2. The evaluative criteria to be employed in judging the quality of students' curricular-aim mastery; and 3. The chief building blocks involved in mastery - that is, the subskills and bodies of enabling knowledge students must master en route to attaining the target curricular aim. Transformative Assessment
  • 9. Webb's Depth of Knowledge
  • 10. Rubrics A rubric is a criterion-based scoring guide consisting of a fixed measurement scale (4 points, 6 points, or whatever is appropriate) and descriptions of the characteristics for each score point. Rubrics describe degrees of quality, proficiency, or understanding along a continuum. (If the assessment response needs only a yes/no or right/wrong determination, a checklist is used instead of a rubric.) Rubrics answer the questions: ● By what criteria should performance be judged and discriminated? ● Where should we look and what should we look for to judge performance success? ● How should the different levels of quality, proficiency, or understanding be described and distinguished from one another? Understanding by Design (p. 173)
  • 11. Rubrics "It helps when the students themselves identify the characteristics of an exemplary project so that they will have a clearer understanding of the parts of the whole. This means exposing students to many student-generated and professional writing samples, guiding students to identify exactly what makes each a strong (or weak) writing piece, identifying the necessary writing skills, and teaching those skills. Students now have a 'map' for each unit, [which] seems to make them much more enthusiastic about the process..." - 6th grade language arts teacher Understanding by Design (p. 176)
  • 12. Technology Integration: SAMR Ruben Puentedura