Dispelling the Myths of a Project

I love inquiry and projects, everyone who’s worked with me knows how much I love them. Here’s the problem. Not everyone loves them as much as I do because they have many misconceptions about what a project is and what one should look like. 

“Projects aren’t true assessment.”

Assessment is a well-rounded, multi-faceted practice that is based on many different tools. Quizzes, Tests, Exams, Projects, Performance Tasks, Worksheets, Standardized Assessments, and everything else we use to gather data about our students are a series of snapshots. True assessment requires many points of data to extrapolate what it is that we need to know and that is the level of understanding and performance in applying their knowledge.

“You aren’t assessing knowledge, only skills in a project”

You are the master of your craft. Your assessment tools is what you make of it. My various forms of rubrics and reflection are outcome-based and translate into the score type that I require from letter grades, levels of achievement, percentages and more. Evidence is everything. Feel free to email me and I’ll be happy to share my rubrics, help with editing yours or making suggestions for different tools to meet your needs. You can also check out my Ninja Plans uploads.

“I teach in an academic school. This doesn’t meet our mandate.”

I’m not sure where to begin with this one because I too teach in an academic school. I have taught in teacher-directed classrooms, student-centered classrooms, low-income, high-income, traditional and inquiry-based schools. A project is what you make of it. A dear friend of mine teaches in a Cogito program and we use many of the same projects with some adaptations to suit our contexts. A project is an application of the knowledge gained through instruction to demonstrated understanding. As the teacher, you are responsible for ensuring that implementation is meaningful and authentic to your setting.

 I’m sure there are many more myths, roadblocks or things preventing teachers from implementing more projects. I’d love to discuss this further with anyone that would like to do so. What “blocks” exist to implementing some of the projects you see or wish you could try?

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Mini Reflection from MSS PBL session

I will write a longer reflection but there were a few key things I took away from today that I wanted to write before I forgot them or worried about how to take everything I scribbled down and summarize it or how to format my pictures to match my thoughts.  Most of my key learnings either came from what was presented, my observations, my own thoughts or the debrief that our school team had.

Key Learnings:

  1. If you are always “Busy”, you are no longer busy as that is the norm and you need a new word for it. MSS uses “energetic”. A former manager of mine always said “Busy is the new Normal”.
  2. Stop making “Time” the excuse. We always have time. We should be thinking about making space for things. Moving things around and shifting priorities temporarily in accommodate a project, expert, learning, and so on.
  3. The focus of PBL should actually be the learning and the process.  My principal, Carolyn put it best in saying that the showcase is really the “Birthday Party” of the learning. I personally feel the product is just the final piece of the puzzle. If it works, excellent! If not, we learned more along the way than we would have if it did work because we found out where we went wrong.
  4. There needs to be a reflective piece. I am not a fan of the word “metacognition” but the kids need to think about what it is they are doing and why they are doing it. It isn’t enough to just do something for the sake of it. Yes there is buy in when it is cool and personal but it doesn’t satisfy the point of education which is to make students cognizant of their learning and  develop the skills and processes. Curriculum only goes so far.
  5. Projects should be intentional. Well planned, linked to learning, focused on process skills and competencies. If it is just to satisfy curriculum, we are only hitting the crust of the metaphorical educational pie. The good stuff is the learning, reflection skills and competencies. A project also shouldn’t just be done to do something.
  6. We need to look at the 10 Competencies and the 3 Es when planning. We tend to forget those things when we get focused on curriculum.