Hacking Project-Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy

Hack 6: Shift the Ownership of Assessment

  • The authors present a progress assessment tool that contains three columns labeled Learning Targets, Strengths, and Self-Reflection & Feedback. Prior to using the tool teachers need to help students understand what exemplary work looks like. To do this the students view and discuss exemplars and one is included here. Older students can discuss exemplars and determine their strengths. Then groups can come together to compare their work. For younger students, whole class discussions may be more productive.
  • Two important questions are: What is it important to know and How will you demonstrate your learning? Also ask: What are the standards? What is the role of critical thinking? What is the role of creativity? What is the role of critical thinking? What is the role of Collaboration? What is the role of communication? What is the role of clarity in your work? Teachers who must have a rubric can easily make one from this tool. The key is that students understand what is expected of them and that they are expected to drive their own work.

Hack 7: Make Feedback Everyone’s Business

  • Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on student success. Students can get feedback from teachers and other students. They can also reflect and engage in self-evaluation. You need to make sure that students know the characteristics of quality feedback. Ideally, you will get to the point where students provide feedback to the teacher.
  • Feedback should directly relate to student progress toward their learning targets. It should feature a comfortable vocabulary, be timely, and consistent. It should allow the student to take further action. To help students understand it better show them some good examples. Allow students to book time for feedback and make sure all students get some even though some will need more. In no case should feedback include grades.

Hack 8: Reserve the Right to Mini-Lesson

  • Even if you desire to do projects all of the time, there will still be a need for some direct instruction. The authors use the term mini-lessons for short lessons (15 minutes or less) that are inserted as needed during project work. Regular conferencing will help you determine when mini-lessons are needed. Give just enough information to keep students going. If the information is provided just in time, it is more likely to be sticky and memorable. You should practice your lessons and record them for student reference. Some mini-lessons may be specific to a group or a single student.
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