Tag Archives: project based learning

Hard to go back

Just read this over at Dangerously Irrelevant:

For a kid who spent a year with a teacher that valued collaborative hands-on, inquiry-based, and problem-based learning, it’s tough to go back the next year to a teacher that has more of a lecture-based, isolated-seatwork-oriented approach.

But why can’t all teachers teach what I called project-based learning where the students do the hard work? I do feel bad for the students who have to go back to the other way of learning. It’s time to move the sage off the stage and let the teacher be the guide on the side.

Another great business partner

Marketing is a little theory and a whole lot of application, and that’s how I always taught it. I gave as few lectures as possible, and used textbooks only when absolutely necessary. Instead of paper-pencil tests, my students had to actually DO something to get a grade. I called it project-based curriculum.

One of the units I taught in Marketing I was sales, and after a few weeks of learning about selling, the students had to actually “sell” an item of their choosing. In the weeks leading up to the actual sales presentation students learned how to approach a customer, question the customer about their needs, make a features-benefit sales pitch, get the customer involved with the product, ask for the sale, and reassure the customer after the purchase and invite them back. Once I felt the students were ready, I brought in REAL customers, and I just sat back and watched the action.

One particular business partner, Bennett Frost Personnel Services, always came through with a number of “customers” who would come to the classroom and go through the 40 or more sales presentations over a three day period. Cathy Frost, the owner of Bennett Frost, came onboard with the Marketing Academy just about the time she started her business and we were starting the Academy. She offered great advice, listening with sympathy to our pleas for help and always coming through with assistance like sending her employees to be customers. Some of our students got to intern in her office, and she gave guest lectures about job seeking.

When Cathy moved into bigger offices with a conference room she invited our department to meet there for planning days. She often popped in with advice and ideas for our classrooms. It helped make us better teachers. And, I hope it made our students better learners. My former students still remember those sales presentations I “made” them do.

The Chalk Art Competition

Thank you, dear Reader, for sticking with me through all of this madness.  We have been working so hard on this event for almost two months now, and it finally happened.  The Chalk Art Competition was one part of the Lights on Afterschool two-day rally held in our area.  My marketing 3 students helped plan and produce the chalk art competition.  They were pretty pleased with the outcome even though there were only five entrants.  Here is the winner:IMGP3091

My students and one of the signs they painted:IMGP3068

Notice how their shirts match the sign even though they didn’t get the shirts until the day of the event.

Although our event was held outside, the awards were given on the stage inside where the dance competition was happening.  Here is the audience:

IMGP3071

My students learned so much doing this project.  Today we evaluated the whole process, getting our planning boards out to see how we did.  It was obvious that we took off, going full speed; and we ended with a flurry of activity; but in the middle, we slumped.   I think this is typical in any long term project so we discussed how we could counteract that slump, especially if we were working in the “real world.”   It is my hope that years from now, my students will remember doing all of this and can use the lessons they learned.

Now, what are we going to do next?

Welcome Steu Mann, M.Ed.

Today I am welcoming a guest blogger to my spot.  I am huge believer of project based learning (PBL) and Steu’s comments resonated with me.  Hope you enjoy his work:

K12 Lesson Strategies – Three Easy Tweaks

Today the K12 education world has tons of experts analyzing and measuring infinite nuisances. There are plenty of learning theories old and new. Students face a raft of assessments to supposedly measure what they have learned or are capable of learning. Yet, every school day the fact remains, there is a teacher in a classroom – doing the trench work – to carve out learning in the lives of students. I’ve been there and I’ve done that successfully. Being a K12 teacher is an unforgettable experience and an awesome responsibility. Here are three easy and simple tweaks that can be done in any classroom, around the world and in any language, to expose learning opportunities and shape lifelong learning skills in the future leaders of our world.

1. Build Lessons Like Life 
Students today have multi-tasking ingrained in their cells, it’s a 21st century survival skill. They are used to playing a video game, texting, and chatting at the same time. Imagine, taking a race horse and placing her/him on a farm in the prime of their life. That horse just may display some issues and do some serious rebelling. A lesson isn’t the method to bring a student into our domain – just the opposite. As educators we must structure the lesson to capture student attention. Life brings multi faceted situations to each of us more than once a day and class lessons need to be designed the same way. A simple matrixed lesson is driven with a clear learning objective. It provides multiple activities during a class period with opportunities for students to work with other students. Teachers can include formal or informal assessments as needed. Most important, before class ends, there’s time for each student to reflect on what they have learned or observed. Matrixed lessons keep student’s busy learning not disrupting.

2. Lesson Delivery: Relevant Content
We live in a world of 30 second sound zips that are deemed informational. Taking that into consideration is absolutely necessary when planning lesson activities and resources. It takes time to reorient student attention spans to encompass a broader perspective of thinking. Like all other teachers, I wanted to reduce the learning curve on students assimilating concepts. The easiest track I found is using real-world examples every day in my lesson. Instead of talking about the components of cells, I would discuss AIDS and cover the cell components. Instead of teaching rectangles I would talk about how much paint is required to paint the school classrooms. Instead of talking about Newton’s Laws we would cover car accidents, soccer, and do car (battery operated) races. As adults we know that life arrives quickly, K12 students can perform better when our lesson structure encompasses enriching their thinking skills.

3. Pedagogy – Constructionist – Project Based Learning (PBL)
Everyone generates knowledge and meaning from experiences. Learning to drive is a classic example. You can talk about it all you want, but driving a car is much different that watching a video, listening to a lecture about it, or reading a book. Jean Piaget is a favorite of mine because he integrates behavior and cognitive aspects into his ideas about learning. Using PBL in classes forces students to use their minds and to “do” the work. I’ve seen it over and over; students produce better individual comprehension solving problems when working with other students. Why? They learn from each other by asking questions and listening – essential behaviors for learning. When students work in groups it requires them to build broader skills than it takes to listen or watch the teacher present information. Plus, it allows students to manage each other – which they do effectively when given the opportunity while teachers practice appropriate classroom management skills. There are varying degrees of PBL complexity. An easy way to get started is with a simple project and then working up the scale. A 10 minute activity working in pairs to produce a venn diagram is an example of a simple project. Producing a play that demonstrates understanding of a famous poet is a complex example. Learning successes will show up by doing a little PBL each day. It’s important to give students time to 1) understand the level of task difficulty they’re assigned and 2) get familiar with project procedures. The best part of PBL is that it prepares students as lifelong learners because they’re expanding their social and academic abilities. I think any teacher can use effective PBL in a class lesson, even when that lesson involves an on line resource.


Steu Mann, M. Ed.
Founder, Ed Tools Directory 
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