Sunday, September 19, 2010

"More freedom, less structure, dancing on the tables." Is this Project Based Learning?

Seems like every time I turned around this past week, I was hearing comments like these and quite frankly, it annoyed me. Our district has implemented a project based learning pilot with half the populations of our 8th, 10th and 11th graders. I am responsible for the the social studies component of one of the 8th grade teams. Maybe I misunderstood the meaning in the comments, or maybe it is a case of miscommunication or lack of communication about the program, but I am compelled to set the record straight just in case there is any doubt.

It would seem that somewhere along the line, the impression has been given that the PBL program we are working to establish is some sort of throwback to the days of the hippie. If that were the case, I'd be sporting my tie dye headband and humming Kumbaya all day. I am a hard worker and always have been. I can honestly say, I have never worked so hard in all my life as I have on this program.

My fellow PBL teaching companions and I have been putting in countless hours establishing the very thing others somehow seem to think this program lacks - structure. Structure of communication with students and parents, structure of student teams, structure of a coordinated and integrated curriculum, structure of projects, structure of lessons, structure for resource acquisition, structure for field trips and other activities, structure and restructuring of time and a structure for the four of us teachers to learn how to work together.

The structure we are building, sets the very necessary parameters for student voice, choice, exploration and presentation. Should anyone passing one of our classrooms see students dancing on the tables, please know that there is a detailed plan, and a very sturdy framework in place that supports them.

1 comment:

  1. Penny, what people seem to be misperceiving about this program is the idea of 'structure'. From a traditionalist's view this program is most unstructured; you are changing the definition in the educational context. Structure means desks lined neatly, students postured correctly, and the teacher leading the kids in their learning. Is this how learning really takes place most effectively? What you and the rest of the team are doing tears down the walls of traditional structure, taking with it the constraints that hold so many students from truly tapping into their potential.