These are questions that were received via Facebook prior to Tuesday of this week. I grouped these by topic so that the answers didn’t become repetitive, and took out the author’s names (and pictures).
Discipline,team work, cooperation, etc.
How is it possible to know if one person is slacking or if one is taking over? Expecting students to grade each other is not a good representation considering no one wants to be the one that graded their friend poorly.
Is it really age appropriate for 4th grade students to be responsible for writing up other students on a conflict chart? Why doesn't discipline of this sort remain the responsibility of the teacher?
I don’t think “grading” is an accurate description of what students are being asked to do. They are asked to record when they have discussed a needed change in behavior, like being off task. They are encouraged to try to resolve conflicts with each other but also to ask for adult help when talking isn’t effective. In talking with the students, I see evidence that being part of this process is building capacity in them for the future.
How are teachers monitoring the groups to ensure that everyone is doing their part and the group is on track?
Teachers are expected to continually monitor the groups as they work. They move throughout the room and listen to students in their groups, call students over to assess individually, or reteach misconceptions when necessary. Students are given a great deal more responsibility than in the past for their behavior,but are held accountable for that by their group. Teachers have to be more vigilant when a problem has arisen in a group, so a group that is having issues might be required to stay close to the teacher in order to allow for more constant oversight.
Any way of prepping the kids so that they understand what it takes to work as a team with a common goal? There is a lot of conversation that happens before and during the PBL to help them understand the importance of working toward a common goal, but it is a process and they are young children. It will take time!
Is there any kind of actual instruction on how to successfully work in groups of this sort? Teachers do utilize role play and modeling to help students learn how to successfully work together. Mrs. Robinson is a resource if that becomes necessary, but it is rare that a situation isn’t resolved by the students.
Content and process
Are they learning about objectives, timeline and key dates?
They have goals that are communicated throughout the PBL.
Have the students been taught the basics of time management and project organization prior to implementing a PBL style of learning?
Part of the learning process for students is adhering to deadlines. Teachers typically insert check-ins throughout the process to insure that students are mastering the objectives for the project and continually remind students of upcoming deadlines.
How are you ensuring order and concentrated effort on these projects? Constant monitoring!
How are the PBL's that last 9 weeks monitored? This is an area that truly is a result of our newness at planning and implementing PBLs. Each team writes and plans a PBL and utilizes a calendar for outlining the amount of time they believe it should take. However, when students start working on the PBL, they may find it more challenging than the teachers planned and therefore it takes longer than the teachers expected. I believe that as we plan and implement more,we will get much better at the time management piece. Also, sometimes it is a scheduling issue. For example, because of PAT and other interruptions, fourth grade is able to have social studies instruction three times a week, which slows down the progress.
Are they getting any instruction on subject matter during this time or are they spending all of that time researching and planning? That seems like a long time for one PBL. Teachers provide resources upfront and may or may not do direct instruction on specific objectives with the whole group. Instruction is definitely provided as students demonstrate need, but it doesn’t look like “traditional” instruction where everyone hears a lecture and takes notes. There are also not worksheets to fill in like you may have seen in the past. Students communicate their understanding through writing and communicating with the teacher.
How much class time are students utilizing per project per week for PBL assignments? It depends on the grade and subject. In K-2, students have done at least one PBL so far and will do at least one more this year. In the older grades, particularly 4th and 5th, PBLs are being utilized with regularity, especially in science and social studies. When they are working on a PBL,that is what they do every day in that class. But these are just “projects” in the familiar sense; they are questions that are designed to ensure learning at a high level.
How much class time do teachers spend teaching the basic theory and methods for prior to implementing a PBL? A premise behind PBL and other constructivist approaches to learning is that children learn more effectively when they explore and discover information in a way that makes sense to them. Teachers spend some time providing initial information, but a lot of their time is spent preparing the conditions and resources so that students “discover” for themselves. Also, there are “mini-lessons” that occur frequently when students demonstrate the need for additional instruction.
If a child has not mastered the theory of the PBL assignment are they expected to participate on a team? If yes, how is that PBL team expected to succeed?
Children may definitely begin the PBL at different levels of understanding and background knowledge. The driving question is written in order to guide them toward research that helps them understand the concepts underlying the project. If a child has difficulty demonstrating understanding of the concepts, the teacher will provide additional help, as they would for any student having difficulty. There is also significant research that supports the benefits of students explaining to students, helping interpret information in kid friendly language