The Reflection Process

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I am nearing the end of my EDTECH 542 class, Project Based Learning.  I have collaborated extensively with a classmate to develop a really powerful project that can be implemented across cultures.  We have tailored it to work with our students.  Now that we are near the end, we are asked to consider the reflection process.  This is a component that we need to plan to add to our own project, therefore, it is beneficial for us to consider the structure of a reflection activity.  Dr. Baek has asked us to respond to the following questions.

  • Who will you involve in the process?

In this project, both collaborating teachers will want to spend some time reflecting on the successes and challenges involved in implementing the project among students.  Of course, we will also want to involve students.  We have planned both a peer assessment reflection for the teams and a personal reflection, which will give students a chance to review all that they have accomplished.  Because this project is reaching beyond the classroom and the school, the administrators will be informed of the activity of the project, and would also benefit from a reflection.  The parents will likely have to consent to the student’s involvement in the process, therefore, a final reflection from the parents would be suitable.  There is a heavy emphasis on technology, so it is likely that there will be some fallout at times, so debriefing with the technology or IT department is crucial.

  • What will your process look like?

In this particular project, the students will be involved in peer assessment and self evaluation through an online delivery, such as a survey.  For the students in one class, there could be a discussion or a written response, especially if we are able to show anonymous responses from students from another culture.  For reflection with administrators and IT, the reflection can take place in meetings.  For parents, the best option is also asking them to complete a survey online.  Questions will focus on the experience, the effectiveness of the activities, the challenge of cross-cultural collaboration, and the reflection on the learning that they take from the project.  Since this will be the first time for most student, a comparative reflection on the project based learning process versus the traditional learning methods.

  • Is it just a one-time assessment?

For this project, the reflective assessment will be one time.  There is a hope that the success of this project can propel similar projects in the future, perhaps in the same school year.  The drive to complete content in the school year, does not give us sufficient time to add additional reflections into the project.

I am reminded of a time that I was able to use a reflection process effectively with students who completed a project based task that required them to involve the whole class in the process.  There were control issues when other students were measuring the responses of the class.  The student leaders were allowed time to reflect on the problems that the teacher noted, and they were give a chance to offer solutions.  The next time we did this type of project, we were able to implement some of the solutions that the students offered for class control.  It did not put an end to the challenges, but since the students were more prepared, it helped make the process more effective.



Project Based Learning: Who’s in Charge?

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Changing Roles: From Teacher To Facilitator

For my EDTECH 542 class, I have been asked to respond the the following questions regarding the teacher’s role in a project based learning (PBL) scenario.  All of these responses are based either in my previous classroom experience or in the cross-cultural collaboration project that I am completing with a classmate.

  • Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?

The answer is yes, but it may not be as obvious as it seems.  I consider myself a transitioning teacher, from the classroom to the virtual classroom.  However, even over the last few years as a classroom teacher, I have always made it my goal to have students produce their learning through application of knowledge.  Instead of thinking that it is the teacher’s job to give them the knowledge to apply to a situation, I usually look for ways for them to construct their knowledge.  In this role, I must be vigilant that they are not constructing false knowledge, so I try to hover nearby to correct any misdirection.   So in many ways, my role has already been changing over the last few years.

  • What are the skills of effective facilitation?

When the students are well prepared for the delivery, the lesson facilitator will become a presenter and reviewer.  The first plan in PBL is to give the students a solid foundation for where to receive their information and a clear expectation of what to do with that information.  Once this has been establish, the teacher’s presentation skills will be used for clear lesson delivery.  Much of the presentation skill is trying to identify troubled areas before the students encounter them.  After the lesson is presented, the students must feel the obligation of engagement.  As the students work through the expectations, the teacher will use reviewing skills to organize time and uninterrupted exposure for the student.

  • Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?

The project we have made for this course is well designed with scaffolding principles, so that the students will be successful.  The first objective was to make the project interesting, so that students would be more inclined to engage in the project.  Knowing where we want the students to reach, we began to build activities that would build skills and knowledge.  The culminating activity gives the students a chance to combine the different skills for an effective presentation.  Of course, it is important to include a reflection component in the project, so students will be able to evaluate their own development.

  • What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?

Expectations are a key component in PBL.  Students need to know what they can expect and shouldn’t expect from the teacher.  Based on my previous classroom experience, I have taken on a facilitator role in many instances, however, the one area I feel that I could improve for better results is setting the level of expectation.  In a traditional classroom this means classroom management and student production management.  As I continue to develop in this area, I am eager to see how a shift from traditional classroom to a virtual classroom would affect this result.  I do know that online teaching will present it’s own challenges, but most of these challenges will make me a better facilitator.

Scaffolding in Project Based Learning

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This article identifies the best components of scaffolding for students that are working through a project.  As I was reading through the article, I was remembering my discussions with my project partner Aaron Dore.  We were discussing many of these points with regard to student guidance.  We did not want to leave them in a situation where they could wander all over the place or that they don’t even know which way to begin.  Therefore, he and I began to examine ways that we could put components in place that will not only help guide them but also help them develop skills and knowledge that they will use later in the project.

First of all, we will be asking our students to do something that I don’t think any of them have ever done.  They will be required to communicate with other students in other time zones and with very different cultures.  The students will be in Michigan and in Saudi Arabia.  This will be intriguing yet intimidating to students, as there will likely be cultural misconceptions, stereotypes, and prejudice on both sides that could emerge.  So we have specifically put in a component that will promote respect and collaboration among the students.

The tasks that they are asked to do early on will give them an anticipation of what it will be like to collaborate with other students and to complete more challenging tasks with technology tools.  When I ask the students to record a video  introducing themselves, not only are they putting their best foot forward for the cross-cultural connection, but they are also developing skills with web 2.0.  Later tasks will require the students to not only communicate about specific content, but they will also be required to produce a final presentation with web 2.0 skills.

The above article focuses much of its energy on making sure that students do not wander off topic of that they don’t get lost in ambiguity, yet they point out that the students also benefit from a fair amount of creativity and self direction.  They recommend that careful evaluation of steps be reviewed for possible lack of clarity.  For our project, as of now, we have given adequate direction and adequate freedom, but we could benefit from checking the specific steps so the students will know what they are doing each step along the way.  Here is a link to our project:  Trade and Cross-Cultural Collaboration

PBL Reflection: Assessments and Rubrics

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Video Introduction


4. Above Standard 3. Standard 2. Approaching Standard 1. Below Standard
Video Content:
Information required for the video introduction.
All information was clear and relevant and followed the instructions. Responses were thoughtful and well planned All the information requested was included in the video. Important information was included but the video was missing specific information in the instructions A video was recorded but the student clearly did not follow the instructions.
Presentation Quality:
The quality of the narration of the recording.
Narration was clear.
Narrator varied voice and volume for interest. When appropriate,
narrator spoke naturally rather than reading it word for word.
Narration was clear and interesting, but did not have a natural flow Narration was either too loud or too soft. It seemed monotone and sounded like a boring presentation. Project included no narration.
Following the instructions for sharing and posting the video.
The video was labeled correctly according to the instructions and the link was posted before the deadline. The video link was posted within the deadline. The video link was posted late to the appropriate document. The student either did not complete the assignment or was not able to post the link to the document.
Written Response:
After watching your partner’s video introduction, a response is written below the link.
An appropriate
length response was written courteously. The font color of the response
was changed according to the instruction.
An appropriate length response was written and was courteous. The response was either too short or too long. The response was not appropriate or the student did not write a response

MyT4L Rubric

This week we were asked to consider the assessments of a project and to make a rubric that reflects the learning goals and expectations through the activity.  The table above show the thought that went into the assessment of this particular assessment called “Video Introduction”.

Rubrics provide essential guidelines for reaching a particular standards.  As a student, I have been able to guide my own progress and completion of a task by checking the grading expectations.  As a teacher, I have also implemented the use of simplistic rubrics.  I teach with the International Baccalaureate (IB) system, specifically in the Middle Years Program (MYP).  This curriculum provides a rubric as a guideline for assessment.  The rubric is a little meaty for my students so I trim it down to a more suitable consumption.  I created the user friendly rubric so students could use it for their own measurement.  In one instance, the students were able to use the rubric to make judgements of their peers.  On another occasion I had a fun write for my advanced students; I asked them to write about a topic by specifically targeting a rating on the rubric, then I had to guess which rating they were targeting.  Some of the students intentionally lowered their level to see if I could guess which lower rating they were trying to reach.

I like the idea of allowing students to create their own rubric as long as they are aware of the standards that they need to reach.  It would be nice to see how well they can word the expectation.  Unfortunately for the most part, the students that I have worked with lack the maturity and independence to take on such a task.

For the purpose of this rubric, the main content that will be assessed is checking how well they use their reading skills for the instructions and how well they use their language skills to respond to the prompts.  I based the expectation categories as the example rubrics that were on the Buck Institute for Education, therefore, I chose the indicators Above Standard, Standard, Approaching Standard, and Below Standard rather than to assign point values.  The MYP rubric is based on a point value of eight, so this system will translate better to the MYP rubric.

This assignment meets the following AECT standards

  • 1.1.5.a Utilize a variety of assessment measures to determine the adequacy of learning and instruction.
  • 1.1.5.b Demonstrate the use of formative and summative evaluation within practice and contextualized field experiences.
  • 1.1.5.c Demonstrate congruency among goals/objectives, instructional strategies, and assessment measures.
  • 1.3.a Select instructional strategies appropriate for a variety of learner characteristics and learning situations.
  • 2.1.1 Develop instructional and professional products using a variety of technological tools to produce text for communicating information.
  • 5.3.2* Develop and implement a school media program evaluation process.
  • 5.3.3* Use a variety of summative and formative assessment techniques for the evaluation of the school media center and for the school media program.

PBL: Driving Questions

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This week in my project based learning class we began to plan a project that can be applied to a group of students.  My classmate, Aaron Dore and I began to put our heads together to see if we could create a cross cultural project.  He first began with the overall idea of having students research supply and demand.  As I began to share with him some of the cultural and societal differences in Saudi Arabia, compared to living in the USA, we began to see unlimited possibility to collaboration ideas that can be done between students from both cultures.  So we set out to see what we can accomplish.

Fortunately, these projects slowly unfold, discovering all the enrichment that is waiting for the teachers and the students.  Aaron and I were full of ideas and potential, but piecing them together in the jigsaw of purpose would soon become a rather big task.  During this assignment, the professor asked us to make a driving question and sub questions that will support the goal and efforts of our students in this project.  As I began to piece together an appropriate driving question with the subsequent sub questions, I discovered that our project will probably need to be narrowed down to a more specific focus.  As I already mentioned, there are many ideas, but focusing them to a clear outcome is still up in the air.  As Aaron and I continue to collaborate, we will explore ways of making are project and questions more precise and focused.

Project Based Learning: Considerations for the Classroom

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The following writing was my first assignment for my EDTECH 542 course, Project Based Learning.

What considerations are important when incorporating a Project Based Learning approach into the classroom?

 Why do we have to know this?  This is the timeless question that has been asked by many students when made to do an x task.  Ironically, as a teacher, I have asked a similar question at times, “Why do I have to teach this?”.  Both of these questions stem from the same root of practicality, which examines the purpose behind the educational content or the method of delivery.  Project Based Learning (PBL) attempts to find the most practical solution to make learning meaningful, by allowing students to explore the content, collaborate to find solutions, and communicate what they have learned.  These are important considerations for incorporating PBL into classrooms, but the ultimate goal is to prepare learners to contribute to their society.

 Describe qualities of a successful project.

First, students should be engaged into the topic of the project or the issues related to the project.  This can be done by discussing real life examples and allowing students to raise questions.  As students work in groups they are given a chance to collaborate with ideas.  Even though guidelines are important, it is important to allow students to personalize their own inquiry and production.  Therefore, it is good to offer students an appropriate number of options.  The students should be aware that their project is a work in progress and it should be refined as they gather more information.  Lastly, the students need to be aware of the audience and a good project presentation will extend to other people in the community.  The students will be encouraged to communicate in an effective way to a broad audience. (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2010)

 What issues must a teacher consider that are specific to PBL instructional strategies?

There are many considerations especially for a classroom teacher when assigning a project.  This teacher will be responsible for the management of many students.  If the students are not experienced in applying independent trial and error skills, the teacher will have to be prepared to make a mind and educational culture shift, which could be second guessed by students, parents, administration, and even other teachers.  In addition, you will find yourself in a paradox, preparing concrete plans for a flexible learning process.

 John Thomas and John Mergendoller have done extensive field research for PBL strategies.  Though their findings are too extensive to mention them all here, I will mention some of the instructor characteristics that they identify for effective PBL instruction. (Thomas and Megendoller, 2000)

 Time Management: They recommend block scheduling to be set up.  Each teacher should be mindful of scheduling so that a project time frame does not interfere with other school wide obligations.  At the same time the instructor should allow for extra time if needed and prepare additional activities during down time.

 Getting Started: The framework of a project and how it is assessed is one very important component.  Thomas and Mergendoller even recommend allowing students a period of time before the project begins to think about related issues, and it even suggests for students to not only have a clear rubric, but allow them input on how it will be graded.  Since the project could extend through a period of time, there should be established checkpoints along the way.

 Establishing Self Management:  Earlier, I alluded to this part, especially if the students are not experienced in thinking through a project.  In my opinion, self management is one of the greatest non-academic skills that can be developed in pupils.  The more the students are involved in seeking out information and a solution, the better effect of the life long lesson.  However, Thomas and Mergendoller are clear to point out that there should be standards that will require the students to achieve and produce worthy results.

 What types of students will be successful in PBL environments?

Obviously, not all students are alike and not all classroom environments are effective for PBL environments.  However, I believe motivation is the most crucial component.  Even though all students don’t have it, everyone at least has potential for it.  Beyond the motivation, of course students with independent skills for inquiring and searching for information will be most successful in a PBL environment.

In my own experience, I developed a hierarchy within the classroom.  Of course I was challenged to make the students understand that this was not about smart kids and dumb kids, but about experience with the language.  The most amazing thing that came from this was how the lower students wanted to grow to either work with a leader, or eventually become a leader.  So I observed that all students had the opportunity to be successful in a PBL environment.

Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. L. (2010). 7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning. Educational Leadership, Vol. 68(1), 4 pages.

Thomas, J. W. & Mergendoller, J. R. (2000). Managing project-based learning: Principles from the field. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

This activity meets the following AECT Standards:
1.1.a Utilize and implement design principles which specify optimal conditions for learning.
1.1.2.d Incorporate contemporary instructional technology processes in the development of interactive lessons that promote student learning.

1.2.c Understand, recognize and apply basic principles of message design in the development of a variety of communications with their learners.

1.3.a Select instructional strategies appropriate for a variety of learner characteristics and learning situations.

1.4.b Describe and/or document specific learner characteristics which influence the selection of instructional strategies.