Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I Love Project Based Learning

We spent our first two weeks of the school year working on a Sundae Project. The project was a huge success on so many levels. I want to share why I found the project, and consistently find Project Based Learning so rich.

From the launch to the debrief students were engaged in this project. We introduced it in a overly serious manor, describing why its important for us to start the year establishing a sense of priorities, structures and processes for projects, habits for successful teamwork, and common language around assessment and assessment practices. We then showed this video and handed out the project summary (and lightened it up)!

In my mind this project exemplified deep learning, and here's why. True, students were only assessed on two Cross Curricular Competencies, Thinking Competency as well as Social and Personal Responsibility, but the learning was so much greater than that. Here were some of the learning highlights for me:
  • Students became better team players, as everyone took a role in their project, and as teams worked on making decisions together
  • Students introduced one another to new collaborative technology as Grade 9's showed Grade 8's how to use Google Drive and Documents
  • Students learned empathy as they planned a sundae menu together. I overheard one fantastic conversation in a group that was divided over whether to serve toppings with nuts or not. Half the group thought they could work around allergies while the other half did not. After some back and forth one student worked up the courage to share a personal story illustrating her point of view. She was persuasive and the group came to an agreement. Excellent decision making!
  • Students were shown a new application of Google Spreadsheets. After a quick workshop on formulas using cell references teams jumped in. Even though tax calculations were presented as an optional challenge many teams went for it.
  • Students demonstrated financial literacy and number sense as they carefully shopped three stores and over 100 options to stretch their budget the farthest in making up their Sundaes. Many teams asked for more options. Teams also had to determine serving sizes and the number of servings per container, and unit conversions were frequently required. 
  • Students came together as a learning community through sharing their ideas and opinions in a non-threatening, fun project
  • One team demonstrated fantastic scientific literacy as they discussed serving sizes, when it was appropriate to use mass, and when it was appropriate to use volume. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Professional Learning Plan 2013/2014

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After diving into PBL with both feet last year I've been trying to focus my efforts this year and be strategic in my practice. Today was our School Planning Day at Kelly Road and we were tasks to choose on of the 8 District Goals (Assessment for Learning, Data-Driven Evidence for Learning, Cultural Competencies, Social and Emotional Learning, Poverty and Student Learning, Differentiation/ Universal Designs for Learning, Enhanced Learning Through Technology, Supervision of Instruction/ Mentorship and Training are the 8 presented this morning)and develop a Professional Learning Plan relating to one of the goals. As the year goes on we will have a chance to spend time with others on staff working toward those goals.

My plan is to focus on the PBL process this year by targeting critique and developing a critique protocol with students. Here's the full plan:

Steve Chase’s Professional Learning Plan 2013/2014

My Learning Intention:

Will a class-created peer critique protocol improve students ownership of their learning, use of one another as learning resources, and understanding of course content?


  • Students will agree that peer critique was comfortable 80% of the time
  • Students will agree that peer critique was beneficial 80% of the time
  • Students will agree that peer critique furthered their understanding of course content 80% of the time

My Plan:

  • Develop peer critique language and structure with students (protocol)
  • Use peer critique at set points in projects to allow students to present their work to peers and receive feedback
  • Survey students each project to see if peer critique protocol is meeting the criteria


  • How can we structure critique sessions so students feel comfortable sharing their work?
  • How can we structure critique sessions so students feel the time is beneficial?
  • How can we structure critique sessions so it is rigorous in terms of content?

Descriptive Feedback:

I plan on using Beth Wilcox as a resource in building the critique protocol, but this inquiry is largely based on my students response to this as a practice, so their feedback is essential.

Self and Peer Support:

I’ve met and discussed feedback and critique in broader terms with a small group of teachers on staff and would appreciate the opportunity to meet with them in the future if possible.
I would also love the opportunity to explore more Project Based Learning resources on my own or with others. A few that seem particularly relevant are from “PBL for 21st Century Success”, and “PBL Handbook”.

Ownership and Where:

I will be posting updates on my blog (, but would also be happy to share my learning with peers.