When it comes to what is best for the learning process, there is an almost unanimous agreement that Project Based Learning is the way to go. The many benefits of this instructional strategy can not be denied, even if we do not use it. The Buck Institute of Education has created what they call the essentials of Gold Standard PBL:
1. Challenging problem. Essential PBL desing elements
2. Sustained inquiry.
4. Student`s voice and choice.
6. Critique and revision.
7. Public product.
Each one of these elements is of utmost importance to achieve the best of any learning experience. We will discuss each of these in later post. Today, however we want to focus on the fourth element and the importance that it has had for my students during this school year.
According to the BIE “Having a say in a project creates a sense of ownership in students; they care more about the project and work harder.” and this is everything a teacher wants from students when they are working with projects. This school year was a very special one, we embraced this element of the PBL gold standard. We had started working with projects last year, but our focus was placed mainly in creating a culture of doing projects.
This year, however, the goal was different. We wanted to develop a sense of creativity and of self direction in our students. We wanted them to be able to think creatively and bring solutions to the tables that we might not have been able to think of. Students were given the situation they needed to tackle but not the way. Many times, all they had was a question that would let them scratching their heads and nothing more. The results were beyond anything I could have anticipated.
In the words of one of our seventh graders “it makes us think, it makes us more creative”. What was more interesting, to us at least, was how talents of each student started to emerge and to be visible to everyone. Students that did not have a chance to shine through traditional learning strategies, were able to show their learning process as they provided creative solutions to the challenges presented.
While we wont say that we have achieved the level of complexity that we want for our students, they have shown their ability to produce quality work when they are given the opportunity of showing what they are capable of. Give students freedom to do and they will show how much more creative than we thought they are.