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Three Days in the Valley Part 2

I've been to a few conferences and conventions in my time. I've heard quite a few keynote speeches in that time.  But on day 2 of PBL World, I think I finally understood the purpose of a keynote speech and speaker is.  I could go on describing the keynote, but I won’t.  The keynote speaker was Stephen Ritz.  That’s all I'll say as preamble. Please take the time to watch the keynote and feel yourself empowered to get out of your chair and plan a project for change. Try to resist, you can’t.







For more info on Stephen and his students, head to greenbronxmachine.org.


So what was going through my mind during this presentation?  Well, my mind drifted to possible projects.  The driving question that came to my mind was “How can you cost effectively grow food in a room with no windows?”  My classroom has no windows so it would be perfect. Growing plants may be a perfect project for a biology classroom, but what place does it have in a physics classroom?  My co-teacher Andelee Espinosa and I have been discussing that the first project we want to scrap from last year is the one we did for our light unit. I won’t say what it was, but I will admit that it was far from the gold standard.  In fact, a few of the projects literally ended up in the dumpster at the end of the school year.  


So what does growing plants have to do with physics?  In a room with no sunlight, it becomes important to determine what sources of artificial light are most cost efficient to grow food.  To experiment with this topic, students must understand the forms of light and what parts of the light spectrum are required for plants to grow.  In addition, how do we make this cost efficient? Can we use reflection or lenses to improve our distribution of light?  When we start thinking about cost efficiently, that’s when one must start thinking about electricity and electrical power.  As Andelee and I realized, we will need to combine traditionally separate instructional units in order to create sustained inquiry.  So if this will be a major project, we will have to combine the traditionally separate topics of light and electricity to create a truly meaningful product.  In addition, as students begin constructing their garden containers, they will have to design with the ideas of force in mind.  I highly recommend people check out towergardens.com and support the Green Bronx Machine and their mission.


This topic of gardening is very interesting.  Last year we officially started our own garden at home and are doubling its size this year. It was fun to come back from my trip to see all the activity in our garden.

Our garden with two new beds added this morning.



Broccoli ready to be harvested
First tomatoes are starting.

Someday soon this will be a cucumber.



I couldn't also help thinking of the connection of this driving question to the blockbuster science fiction novel The Martian.  


Read the book for the great detail of space farming.


In fact, the film version of it is coming out later this year.  Watch the trailer, hopefully you'll find the connection.




 


The great thing about the book is that the science is pretty good. Let’s hope it translates to film. Now I'm not trying to make any analogy between my classroom and Mars.  In fact, I've got high hopes for making my classroom more exciting from a visual standpoint.  A green space can’t hurt.  

PBL Workshop Day 2



In our morning session of 101, we were tasked with creating a poster outlining our project.  The poster highlighted the project title, grade level, project idea, driving question, standards and success skills to be assessed, product, and how it will be shared with a public audience. The poster we created is below.







Upon creation of the posters, all PBL 101 sections displayed their posters in the hallways of New Technology High School where PBL World was hosted.  



We then completed a gallery walk.  This is another form of peer critique and revision.  This post from bie.org can explain the proccess much better than I can.


If you don’t have time to read the article right now, I’ll give you the short version.  During the gallery walk, individuals took a pen and post it notes around to each poster (in 20 min. we were only able to get to a fraction of those produced).  Once at a poster, the individual reads the poster and provides feedback.  This feedback is provided on the post it note.  This feedback is focused by 3 ideas.  The first is “Praise” where the feedback is focused on what the critic likes about the project.  The second, “Question” concerns aspects of the project that seem unclear based on the poster.  Finally, “Polish” focuses on suggestions for improvement.  One really great instruction Jesse gave was to write comments on the back of the post it.  This meant that when post its were seen by other critics, they did not influence their critique.  The gallery walk was a great activity.  In fact there is a very nice hallway outside of my classroom at Brookfield Central for this to take place.  Oh, perhaps I failed to mention that critics are to be silent while providing their post it feedback.


The afternoon of day 2 focused on assessment in PBL. The takeaway was that high quality assessment does not feel like high stakes assessment.  Let me explain.  Over the past years, our district has been mandated to increase the amount of high stakes standardized testing it performs.  In my opinion, this has led many of our students to have a skewed vision of what quality assessment looks like.  Quality assessment ties together content standards, content skills, and success skills.  Those skills probably do not involve students to be at a desk sitting quietly with a #2 pencil filling in bubbles.  When we discussed what high quality assessment might feel like to a student, that led us to see that it won’t feel like a traditional assessment.


When designing a quality assessment there are three questions to consider.  Those are who is being assessed, how are they being assessed, and what is being assessed. As far as what is being assessed is where a PBL curriculum looks to assess more than content.  At the heart of the gold standard model, is not simply content knowledge.  In addition, there are content and success skills. When designing assessment for a project, it is important that one keeps in mind all three of these types of standards/skills.  Once the what has been determined then the teacher can start thinking about how to assess this knowledge, understanding, and skills.  There are important considerations when moving from the what to the how.  The first is determining if assessments will be formative or summative.  We know that the summative will be the project and the learning and skills related to it.  But, during the process there needs to be formative assessments as students critique, revise, and delve to deeper levels of inquiry.  There is a balance to be struck between the importance of formative and summative assessments.  But while the importance is balanced the frequency is not.  For each piece of knowledge or skill being assessed, there needs to be several formative checkpoints in the process.  To aid in the mapping of the what to the how, the institute has design a planning piece titled a Project Assessment map.





Starting from the left, you can see we start with the summative product. The product itself assesses different skills and objectives. The last step of the map shows that each skill or objective needs to be assessed multiple times during the formative process. This map will not represent all of what is being assessed, but it provides a good start to begin making those connections and ensuring multiple points of formative assessment.


So I've touched on what and how, next is who.  In the PBL classroom, the who question is a choice between is this a group or individual assessment. At this point, Jesse began spinning her golden wisdom based on experience. I'll just come out and say that I've been very bad about this consideration of who.  I'll focus less on my mistakes and more on what I learned.  It is not appropriate for groups to be assessed on content knowledge that all students should be responsible for.  If a group grade is assigned to key content knowledge, it makes it easy for group members to mask their lack of understanding.   It is important that all learning objectives be assessed separately for each individual. So when considering group grades, they should focus on more appropriate skills such as collaboration and presentation. Overall, there will be more individual outcomes than group outcomes.  Because of this, the individual assessment should always outweigh the group assessment for each project.

As we went deeper into planning our assessment on day 2, we were introduced to the Student Learning Guide designed by the Buck Institute. The following is a blank version of the document.



Project Design: Student Learning Guide
Project:
Driving Question:
Final Product(s)
Presentations, Performances, Products and/or Services
Learning Outcomes/Targets
knowledge, understanding & success skills needed
by students to successfully complete products
Checkpoints/Formative Assessments
to check for learning and ensure
students are on track
Instructional Strategies for All Learners
provided by teacher, other staff, experts; includes
scaffolds, materials, lessons aligned to learning outcomes and formative assessments
(individual and team)

This document is a one stop document for formalizing ass the assessment pieces that will occur in class. The first column identifies the products both individual or team.  In the second column, the objectives for each product are listed.   The third column lists the formative assessments specific to each objective. The final column lists the learning activities for each objective.  These activities do not need to be directly related to the project completion.  They include learning opportunities such as lab investigations and more traditional instruction such as lectures and reading. Below is a completed sample provided by the Buck Institute.



The following is the beginning of our student learning guide for the project we started on that second day of PBL 101. This document is far from complete as you can see.



Project Design: Student Learning Guide
Project: Newton Knows Physics
Driving Question: How Can I Use Physics to Hack Sports?
Final Product(s)
Presentations, Performances, Products and/or Services
Learning Outcomes/Targets
knowledge, understanding & success skills needed
by students to successfully complete products
Checkpoints/Formative Assessments
to check for learning and ensure
students are on track
Instructional Strategies for All Learners
provided by teacher, other staff, experts; includes
scaffolds, materials, lessons aligned to learning outcomes and formative assessments
(individual and team)
Unit Lab Conclusions
1.1 I can explain the relationships between acceleration, average velocity, instantaneous velocity, average speed, instantaneous speed, distance, displacement, and time.
1. practice work
2. exit tickets (clicker quizzes, kahoot, etc.)
3. drafts of script
4. instructional video analysis
Tumble buggy lab
Freefall lab
Lecture
Video on peer review
Sample video with key terms and analyze aspects
1.2 I can use kinematic equations to assess and calculate an object’s displacement, velocity and acceleration.
1. practice work
2. exit tickets (clicker quizzes, kahoot, etc.)
(3. draft of script with calculations
Walkthrough of sample calculations
1.3 I can measure an object’s displacement, velocity and acceleration.
1. peer review of tumble buggy conclusion
2. draft of experimental procedure of sport technique
3. peer review of experimental procedure of sport technique
Science Labs on Motion
Teacher model experimental design
1.4 I can construct and analyze graphs of an object’s motion.
1. practice work
2. exit tickets (clicker quizzes, kahoot, etc.)
3. draft of science lab graph
4. peer review of science lab graphs
5. Walk a graph activity
6. draft analysis of sports experiments
7. peer review of sports experiments   
Science Labs on Motion
Walk through graph creation and interpretation
Video (group)
collaboration
peer check in
media literacy

Again, this version is just a start to what the final version of this document will look like.  First off, there will be many more objectives for the individual product.  Since it covers four conventional units, there will probably close to 12.  As you can see, the parts of the group project are only beginning to be fleshed out.  There's quite a way to go.  It'll have to wait a week or so.  Or at least until I've finished my reflection of day 3.


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