I have been asked to consider the following questions for this week’s reflection:
- Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?
I think as with all new things it will be hard to “let go” and let the students explore. As this will be a new process both for me and for the students, I believe it will include a learning curve that all of us will benefit from. I would hope that over time I will see myself give in and trust my students to follow through. As has been stated in other forum discussions, clear concise directions are going to be the key. Giving the students a rubric to follow for guidelines and entrusting them to rely on themselves to find answers to their questions will help them become more independent. As my students are only in 3rd grade, this whole concept of PBL will likely be relatively new for everyone involved.
- What are the skills of effective facilitation?
Ruth Hill (n.d.) suggests that an effective facilitator is responsible for designing and planning the group learning process while guiding and controlling students to participate, mutually contribute to the learning process, and share responsibility.
In further researching, I found an an excellent website at Community Tool Box. The article by Marya Axner outlines some excellent ideas in helping newbies, like myself, move beyond the role of teacher and more of a facilitator. Axner (n.d.) suggest 3 basic principles:
- A facilitator is a guide to help students move through a process together, not the seat of wisdom and knowledge. The facilitator isn’t there to give opinions, but to encourage opinions and ideas from the group.
- Facilitation focuses on how people participate in the process of learning or planning, not just on what gets achieved.
- A facilitator is neutral.
I found a great website from Community Tool Box about developing facilitation skills in the work place or as a chair person for a group. As i read through the suggestions I found that most of the information could EASILY be adapted to a classroom of students. Axner (n.d.) outlines ground rules for group discussions, interventions should group discussions go astray and so many more ideas I found extremely useful.
- Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?
As I stated earlier, for 3rd grade students, this may be their first experience with PBL. It is likely to take some time and encouragement from the teacher. Clear concise instructions combined with adequate question/answer time during group discussions is sure to be helpful. I chose to include a lot of smaller activities with individual rubrics and graphic organizers so students would not feel overwhelmed and would feel successful every step of the way.
- What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?
This is going to be a tricky experience to balance as this will likely be a first-time experience for both me and the students. I will need to be sure to give the instructions/rubric and answer questions but then step back as students explore and work. My job will be to remind students to be on task and stay on schedule and only assist if asked. I will attempt to redirect questions back to the student to make them come up with their own solutions.
I have thought a lot about testing and how to fit PBL into the curriculum. As a parent I want to see more PBL but as a teacher, it takes a lot of creativity and mental know-how to pull it off. The trick is truly to be proficient at multi-tasking. These days it is getting harder and harder to justify anything that won’t be on that dreaded test at the end of the year because now salaries and jobs are depending on those ridiculous test scores. True learning and engagement is falling by the wayside. Many kids are losing interest in school at all and anxiety/depression is on the rise due to the increased pressures.
I believe that while administrators may push back a bit on using PBL in the classroom, it is important to try it anyway and simply start small. PBL is learned and is a learning process for both teachers and students. Starting off big is probably doomed to failure. Start small with shorter PBL projects and try to integrate other subjects as much as possible. As there is such a push for proficient writing, I believe that writing activities can be addressed in any PBL project through reflection and learning logs as well as research writing.
Effective instructional strategies is more than just a score on a standardized test. Effective instructional strategies include student engagement and motivation towards learning. The PBL project I have created will still be somewhat teacher-guided because many 9 year old students haven’t been let loose yet to work independently like more advanced PBL opportunities would allow. My goal in creating this PBL project is to introduce students to a long project, one that integrates science, collaboration, writing, and research techniques. Even though the teacher will be guiding many of the activities, students are still working independently and as groups while the teacher oversees the process only offering suggestions and guidance as needed.
Axner, M. (n.d.). Section 2. Developing facilitation skills. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/group-facilitation/facilitation-skills/main
Hill, R. (n.d.). The role of a facilitator. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/RoleofAFacilitator.htm