I have always wanted to trial PBL, and never really found the time or if I am honest the real conviction to give this a go properly. Yes I have done projects before in class everyone has, but I know from reading about PBL, particularly from places like Cramlington and High Tech High in San Diego, that it’s all about a quality product at the end, and accepting the feedback to make improvements. Or in their language a Critique
So this is where I started, researching what works from other schools, but trying to adapt the methods to fit my timescales (and relative skills). I explained at the start I would not accept mediocrity (I never do) but I thought it was important to stress the outcomes and success criteria, and the expectation to accept and given meaningful feedback.
My Students and starter lessons
I have a super bottom set year 9 class, that I thought they were the perfect Guinea Pigs. And my reasons are, they basically fall into one or a few of the following categories. They are wonderful students every single one of them, but the majority either just don’t like science, aren’t very good at it (in their view), or just don’t work hard enough to really embed concepts. So I have given them and myself a big challenge.
I called it #Project9IGS, and decided on a window of implementation to get it completed for after the Easter holiday. That will be effectively 8 lessons of work, plus any extra work the students put in plus the holiday. We started with the first lesson, where I set the scene and we spent the entire lesson choosing and refining our questions to answer and doing a first piece of primary research. I really tried to push them on the quality and demand of questions, but I have to say the outcomes will only be truly apparent when the final products come in. I gave them some ideas but these examples are what the students came up with, depending on their own interests. The hard to reach boys were particularly keen to give this a go.
Some questions posed and hopefully answered by #Project9IGS
1. Why are wolves being reintroduced into the UK?
2. What is a Black hole and an Event Horizon?
3. Explore the The physics of an F1 car?
4. What are the effects on a person during fast jet flight?
5. How do Painkillers and Anaesthetics work?
6. What are the adpatations of defence mechanisms in animals?
7. Investigation the chemistry of Calcium Carbonate
8. What is Lucid Dreaming?
When I received an email from of the boys in the class at 7.30pm at night asking some questions about his project, I suddenly thought, WOW!!! he is thinking about school science work after school time. He is one the most hard to reach in the class. Maybe its a fad, maybe its a honeymoon period, but I will take that engagement as a first step. The next lesson will be about quality products and feedback. I intend to show some projects from the likes of Cramlington and High Tech High, plus my ever favourite ‘Austin’s Butterfly’ for the feedback.
Next update in two weeks time, but I will tweet pictures using the #Project9IGS hastag for briefer updates