Tag Archives: Ed Tech 542

PBL – The Role of the Facilitator

One of the greatest challenges for an instructor in a PBL unit is to adapt to the role of facilitator. This week my assignment was to reflect on the following questions:

  • Will my role in the teaching/learning process change? I view my role of teacher as that of a facilitator to act as a guide for the students not some talking know-it-all in the front of the class. Of course there are times when the teacher does need to provide whole group instruction but not all class period everyday! I don’t see my role changing a lot, as this has been my general style of teaching for many years.
  • What are the skills of effective facilitation? Time, team, and classroom management skills are all critical in order to keep everything moving and organized, all while letting the students “manage” their own learning. Good questioning skills are also important; you need to guide the students through a questioning process instead of just telling them what to do next. You also need to be able to gauge where your students are at in the learning process. Do they need you to take a step back or speed things up?
  • Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful? Yes! While they may not all reach the same level of mastery, they will develop the skills necessary to be successful. The only obstacles to them succeeding are if they don’t come to class or do the work (students cannot learn if they are not present physically or mentally).
  • What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit? I will need to do better with time management, have more structured check points, and continue to use formative assessments to guide the pacing.


Designing Integrated Curriculum

How refreshing would it be for students to come to school and be immersed in a project that truly spanned the curriculum that was engaging and applied their learning to something they could relate to (not just the teachers). That is just what interdisciplinary project-based learning does. So, how do we get past the turf wars of little academic kingdoms and move to a collaborative integrated system? Have a plan, start small, and market the program. Here is a short list of some of the advantages of moving to an interdisciplinary approach to share with your co-workers:
Sharing the burden! Working with your colleagues to design lessons that integrate academics spreads the burden. No longer are you teaching in isolation. There is a sense of synergy with everyone working towards a common goal.
Face it, some students just don’t get ______ (fill in the blank with whatever subject you want), for some reason it just doesn’t click. By using interdisciplinary projects, they can build on their strengths in the other academic areas to bolster them up in that weaker area.
Relevant and engaging, two things that help keep students coming to school and learning. Imagine the reduction of attendance and behavior issues if students were excited about what they were working on. Interdisciplinary projects provide continuity that keep the students engaged throughout the day, the learning isn’t in unrelated chunks. The students actually experience how the different subjects are intertwined in everyday life.
Integrated projects are a great way to bring rigor to your lessons, while meeting standards – especially with the Common Core roll out!
There are always going to be challenges facing teachers, schools, and administrators regardless of whether or not you use a more thematic approach to education. You will encounter those who want to perpetuate academic islands, who want to just keep teaching how they have always taught (not taking into account effectiveness), and those who just don’t or won’t see the value in project-based learning. Let’s face it time is a precious commodity that you can never get enough of and the front-end planning does take a lot of time and effort. However, these obstacles are not insurmountable!

So how, might you ask, do you go about making interdisciplinary project-based learning a reality in your school? First thing is find a group of teachers who are willing and enthusiastic and start small. There is a lot of power in seeing success and success is a great motivator for those fence riders who aren’t real sure about the process. Choose a project that is going to be of high-interest to the students. Next, provide this team of teachers with the planning time needed to create the project. Once entrenched in the project the team will need additional time in the schedule for common planning to collaborate, while they continue to monitor and adjust – making those tweaks as the project unfolds. Again, the success of the first project will provide the momentum to get more teachers involved and students engaged.

Well, what are you waiting for? Find some willing co-workers and start a grassroots movement and get started, one project at a time!



PBL Assessments

This week’s post is about how the assessments I planned for my PBL project meets the key requirements for effective assessments. One of the tasks this week was to create a rubric as part of the overall assessment plan. This worked for me, as rubrics are my preferred measurement tool. The reasons I like rubrics so much is that they provide students with clear-cut guidelines/expectations for each criteria, reduce subjectivity in grading, and can be used by both teachers and students to assess work. They also streamline grading. I mistakenly thought it would be easy to design one for my project since I am familiar with several rubric generators and knew what I wanted students to be able to demonstrate at the end of the unit. The truth is, it was a little daunting making sure each standard and skill was fully addressed.


The project I am working on is a marketing project that incorporates language arts standards and a variety of tech tools. It is intended to be team-taught with a language arts and a computer applications teacher. Students will have the opportunity to use tech tools in “real-world” applications to create a marketing solution to a problem. What I like about creating a project is that you have the liberty of determining how students will  demonstrate learning and tailor your instruction to fit the audience. This is what I kept in mind as I selected the various assessments.  I like what many may consider backward design, creating assessments before content, for several reasons. 

  1. Knowing what you will assess makes designing lessons easier. You know what students will need to have mastered at the end of the unit rather than coming to the end and trying to throw an assessment together. 
  2. As the designer, you get to decide the standards and what students need to produce or demonstrate to show mastery. You are not locked into a publisher’s notion of what  or how to assess. 
  3. When you have a summative assessment to work from, there is more accountability in the instructional process.
  4. Having formative assessments built in helps monitor how students are progressing. These checkpoints provide opportunities to celebrate successes while identifying when re-teaching and enriching is needed. 
  5. Using multiple measures allows students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways and provides documentation of student growth.

While I can design the summative assessment for the project and the formative assessments for non-academic standards, unfortunately the majority of the formative academic assessments are set by the school district. So, I will have to work them into the plan. While I did create the rubric for the summative assessment, the peer and self assessments are not complete. I want student input before finalizing them, even though I have an fairly good idea of what the assessment needs to look like. 


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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Uncategorized



Visual Project Organizer for the Driving Question

What I gathered from this we is writing the driving question sets the foundation for the project and the essence or what you will assess. The subsequent questions guide the students progress by asking key open-ended questions. I can see the need to revise and add to the list of questions as students begin working on the project, keeping in mind they aren’t assessments but prompts to keep the students moving through the process of creating the end product.


Driving Question for The Case of the Ooze



PBL sites in review

In sifting through various sites this week I found several such as Teach 21 that are searchable by grade level, subject, and/or standard. I found one site – the Salvadori Center that charges for their lesson plans. All you can see a synopsis of the project but no information on grade level or standards. Some sites are age or grade level specific. For example the Human Computer Interaction Lab site is for students 7-11 years old and BIE has the links assorted by grade level. What I like about ePals is you choose your preferred language and age bracket to filter projects. I found a perfect project for my school’s 7-8 language arts classes, to communicate with a small community in Canada about the similarities and differences from the cultural perspective of indigenous people. You have to do some searching but Edutopia does have lessons, there is a cool middle school project dealing with zombies

The site I like the most is West Virginia’s Teach 21. The site is searchable by content and grade level. Once you find a project it unwraps the academic and Century 21 standards.  

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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Uncategorized