Yesterday we went through the project outline for Project Awesome with the Phenomenal 15, AKA North Star 3, 4, 5, 6.
I’d had a bit of a moment the night before because:
a) I wasn’t sure that the students were very interested in the project and
b) I was also having trouble trying to decide the best time to introduce a KWL table for the students, Michael and I to use as a planning/reflective tool. In fact, I was uncertain whether I wanted to use a KWL table at all.
I’ll address concern (b) (the KWL table saga) first.
I toyed around with the idea of developing something like a KNH table whereby the ‘K’ would still represent what we already ‘KNOW’ about what we we are studying, the ‘N’ would represent what we ‘NEED’ to know to succeed at the project and the ‘H’ would represent ‘HOW’ we would get there. This is great, except if we went with this, it would still be helpful for us to have a visual way to reflect on our learning and list what we have learned along the way. Since the KWL table already has this embedded in the ‘L’ column, I decided to stick with that.
My problem was that I was getting caught up on the visual aspect of having the ‘L’ in the KWL table left empty while the ‘K’ + ‘W’ were filled at the beginning of the project. I’m glad I decided to ditch my petty aesthetic concerns because the students seemed to respond to the KWL well and I can already see that we’ll be going back to it to refine our inquiry and reflection as we continue through the project.
Now for concern (a) (student interest).
I think that we should try as much as possible to make things interesting for students, or even better, allow them to inquire into things that they’re interested in and link that to the curriculum. I realise that this is quite ambitious, but if students aren’t interested in what they’re doing at school, I think it’s doubtful that they’re going to learn much from it.
So I was getting quite worried about this whole thing.
In retrospect perhaps this worry was unjustified – the kids at North Star really are awesome and over the last couple of days they’ve been taking to the 6 word memoir tasks we’ve been doing with great interest. I just wanted to make sure that the project continued to be as interesting for them as I could possibly make it.
After a bit of consideration and some discussion with my brilliant wife Bianca I decided to do the following:
a) modify the original Driving Question and project outline
b) give the students the choice between the original DQ and project or the new modified DQ and project
The difference between the two questions and projects was really quite minimal; the second, modified DQ was a little broader and, in fact, encompassed the original DQ such as that the original DQ needed to be answered before the new DQ could be answered. Additionally, the range of products that the students were able to create under the newer project outline was broader; the original project included a visual text as one of the products whilst the newer project broadened this to include a whole range of products, for example poems or games.
I thought the newer project outline was better, but keeping with the PBL philosophy of student voice and choice I decide to let the students choose between them.
So basically today’s introduction to the project outline meant that students compared two projects with slight, yet important differences.
The original project outline is below:
Here is the modified outline:
At first they chose the original outline but after a bit of discussion they changed their mind and decided to opt for the updated project. I must admit that Michael and I persuaded the students toward this decision to some degree but it was ultimately their own choice.
Our reason for persuading the students toward the updated project was basically that we felt they had chosen the original project as the easier/safer option and we felt that they would be more challenged and learn more through the updated project. As mentioned, we discussed this with the students and they decided based on this discussion.
After this session Michael and I discussed some of this in relation to student voice and choice. I totally agree with allowing students ownership over the direction of their learning, and I’m totally for students pursuing their interests (if this is possible) at school.
I’m wondering however how much student voice and choice was allowed in the above and if our persuasion was fair? I think we allowed enough (certainly more than your “sit down and do this” lesson), I also think that we gave the students a bit of a nudge to challenge themselves a little bit further.