Project Based Learning

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The Common Core State Standards are more than just a new set of standards to teach. The pedagogical implications behind the CCSS are more important than the standards themselves. The days of simply checking off a list of standards are fading faster than the tributes in Hunger Games. There is a great need to begin the process of identifying new and more effective strategies for learning. One of these strategies, though it is not very new, is Project Based Learning (PBL).

The idea has been around for a while though it has had several iterations; inquiry instruction, discovery instruction, problem based instruction. The purpose regardless of what you call it is to allow students the opportunity to direct their own learning with little direction from the teacher. The teacher in this approach is meant to be a resource and advisor rather than a planner and director.

PBL is not something to jump right into though. Like any new strategy it takes time and effort to build competency. There are numerous resources to help guide teachers. Edutopia and Buck Institute for Education (BIE) are two of them. Once you decide to begin working toward PBL take it slow and do some research. There are pre-made projects available for those of you that want to try it without the huge time investment needed to do one on your own.

WARNING. PBL is not creating activities that involve “real-world problems”. It is way more than that. PBL is a drastic change in the point of view of learning. Go on, try it. Your presentations are getting stale, your students are not as engaged as you would hope them to be, it’s time for a change. All subjects and all grade levels can use PBL as a way for students to learn.

ANOTHER WARNING. Students will come to you with questions that you may not know the answer to. That’s okay. You don’t have to know everything. Your job in PBL is to guide students to the right answers, not to give the answers to them. Think of yourself as a guide rather than an instructor. Direct students toward the right resources and information.

Most teachers that have introduced PBL into their classroom have been very happy they did. Teachers feel more students are learning, they are learning more about their students, and they feel students are becoming better thinkers. Students will not just be able to spew out information on a test. They will begin to be able to find the information on their own. A novel idea.

NAEP Questions

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A group of teachers recently asked me about the NAEP and whether there are released questions available. I began by searching “NAEP Framework” and came across several resources provided by NAEP. Most of them have sample questions available and others simply lay out the framework of the test. Before you begin working on helping your students do well on the NAEP test I feel I need to give a few words of caution. First, the NAEP is not required for all students nor all districts (unless you receive Title I funds). I can see some benefit in preparing students for this test but I would be cautious about the amount of time spent on it. Second, preparing students to take standardized tests is important. Taking standardized tests is becoming a science. However, keep in mind that any time you spend preparing students on how to take a test takes time away from teaching students what will be on the test. Having said that here are the resources:

If you have questions feel free to post a comment. If you would like updates on this or any post on this blog you can subscribe by email, follow my twitter page @MNicholasCCESC, or Like my Facebook page Ccesc Mathematics.

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