Posts tagged demonstration of learning
Dessert vs. Main Course
This week, The Shift is learning about Project Based Learning with the Buck Institute.   We are diving into what it might look like to coach other teachers as they embark on their own PBL journey.  A big part of what we’ve explored so far revolves around helping teachers feel comfortable and supported in trying something new.  Your first step into PBL doesn’t have to be perfect, and any teacher needs to accept that some failure might happen. Being transparent with your students about your own learning helps!

Our biggest takeaway so far is an anecdote describing the difference between giving your class a “project” vs engaging in “project based learning”.  Typically, a project is something that is assigned to a class after the learning has happened. The amount of new learning that happens during the project is minimal and the students are generally regurgitating what they already know.  A project is like dessert.

Project Based Learning, on the other hand, IS the learning.  A teacher poses a problem or driving question to the class and lets students explore that problem in their own way.  Learning and teaching happens throughout, depending on student needs. Sometimes there is whole class instruction, sometimes the learning is done with smaller groups, sometimes it is teacher driven and sometimes student driven.  In the end students have, individually or in groups, created products that demonstrate their deeper learning around the original problem. As teachers get more comfortable facilitating this type of learning, it is often the students who pose their own problems or questions to be explored.  Project Based Learning, done well, is like the main course of a great meal...and we are hungry!

Actual #pblcanada footage
Answers from High Tech High
We were sent to High Tech High and the Deeper Learning Conference with questions, and we brought back a heap of answers.

You can read our on the ground impression here after Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 of the conference.

Before we headed to the conference we also asked others who had seen the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” to provide us with their own questions.  We tried as best we could to answer them, splitting the work up between our Principal Nicholas Varricchio and ourselves.  You can read our answers here. If you haven’t seen the film, and would like to, you can still see the film here.

And of course, if what you’ve read about our visit sparks new questions, feel free to leave us something in the comments
Feeling Impressed at High Tech High
HTH Daily Schedule, complete with some flex time
On our last day at the Deeper Learning conference, we took the time to soak in and appreciate High Tech High itself: the school, the students and teachers.  We gained insight into school life from both teachers and students, walked the hallways and marvelled at the beautiful work that students create that breathes life and energy into all spaces (even the bathrooms!).

Reflecting and comparing their school to Halton schools, we noted that there were many similarities.  Despite what we say in the film Most Likely to Succeed, students still learn about specific subjects in specific periods.  High Tech High and High Tech Middle still have students with special education needs. Their are Individual Education Plans and mental health concerns.  Teachers still worry about if what they are doing for their students is good enough.

The big differences come from two areas, the projects that students are asked to complete and the displays of student learning that have given the campuses the feel of a really hip art exhibit.

Impressive example of student learning

Students at HTH and HTM still write tests, they still read novels, but by and large they demonstrate their learning via Projects and Exhibitions of Learning.  The projects are well thought out and tie together the learning from several curriculum areas. Some projects are hard to see once they are finished, like an exhibition of spoken word poetry.  Other projects can live on in the school campuses. Many past projects are still on display, inspiring people who enter the campus with a sense of wonder.

Teachers at these schools are very intentional in building safe communities with their students so that deeper learning can happen.  Failure is not only ok, it is expected. Students are asked to iterate often, pushing their products from good to great (or mild to spicy as one teacher put it).

Student created kinetic bicycle sculpture

We are leaving the Deeper Learning Conference with a big feeling of awe, but also with a strong sense that any school can be retooled to allow for more Project Based Learning.  It can start with small changes, like asking students in your class how they would like to demonstrate their learning, and it can lead to huge results.

Just one of the many great spaces at HTH

Jamie in the Great Room, a common space for learning.