Diving Into Project-based Learning: Our Need to Know

project-based learningOnce the students had selected a topic from our over-arching theme of civil/human rights, and I had a rubric, it was time for the real work to begin. We started our project-based learning by making a list on the board of things we know about the topic followed by a list of things we “need to know.” Basically, we completed the K and W of our KWL chart (PDF).

We completed this quickly and looking back now, I realize we really should have slowed down and spent more time here. I should have had each team create their own KWL and perhaps even added it to the rubric as part of their reflections. The students were eager to get to researching and creating, and I was excited for them to begin, too. We should have slowed down this step in the process. We should have been more thoughtful and purposeful here. Hindsight. Instead, I allowed the boys to rush through the process so that they could begin creating their group contracts and planning their projects. We didn’t spend the time we should have on identifying what we needed to learn, and their inquiry and projects suffered as a result.

Once we started researching, some of the guys lacked direction. Some didn’t know where to look beyond a simple Google search for information. The more I consider that, the more I believe some of those struggles resulted from an inadequate list of things we needed to know. It wasn’t that they didn’t know where to search, but that they didn’t really know what to search for. We’d rushed through a crucial step, and it limited their inquiry. This was one of my biggest mistakes through this dive into project-based learning, and one I don’t plan to repeat when I try again next time.

This is the sixth in a series of posts on my “Dive Into Project-based Learning.” If this series interests you, consider reading about my professional goalmy research and resources, or the genesis of this ideaour project brainstorms, or the rubric design. As always, I’d appreciate your comments, questions, or suggestions.