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Louis Freedberg/EdSource Today

Students' rafts – part of a project based on the book "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen – are put to the test in tubs of water.

The young-adult novel “Hatchet” – about a boy who learns to live in the wild after surviving a plane crash – has been a staple of elementary-school English classes for years. But this year Sara Siebert taught it with a twist.

She assigned her fifth-graders at the Santiago Elementary School in the Santa Ana Unified School District to build rafts out of popsicle sticks, string, duct tape and glue to recreate part of the book in which the boy uses his only tool – a hatchet his mother gave him before his departure – to build a raft.

In the process, the students not only gained new appreciation for the novel but drew on their math skills to measure and design their materials, and deepened their knowledge of science by learning about buoyancy and solubility.

As part of their efforts to help students meet the Common Core State Standards, adopted in 43 states including California, teachers in Santa Ana and elsewhere throughout California are increasingly turning to the strategy of “project-based learning” as exemplified in Siebert’s raft-building exercise.

Interviews with educators in five other school districts and one charter network being tracked by EdSource Today as they implement the Common Core suggest the strategy is becoming more popular in classrooms throughout California.

In addition to Santa Ana, school superintendents in Elk Grove, Garden Grove, Fresno, San Jose and Visalia, as well as the chief academic officer of Aspire Public Schools, a charter network with 35 schools throughout California, all said that their schools have either recently increased the time students spent on project-based learning as a direct result of the Common Core standards or redesigned existing projects to better align with the new standards. The voluntary Common Core standards, which cover math and English Language Arts, emphasize critical thinking and hands-on activities to help students master the subject matter.

“The relevance of a project really inspires kids to look deeper and actually allows more complex problem-solving activities to go on,” said Chris Wheaton, superintendent of the Visalia Unified School District. “So that’s why I think we’re seeing more of it.”

The Common Core standards include explicit expectations that students learn how to work together, acquire skills to solve real-world problems, and persist in doing so – all core components of project-based learning,

“They don’t realize how hard they are working. They are collaborating with peers. They are able to be creative. They are disagreeing along the way, but from those disagreements comes better work. These are all skills they will be able to use throughout life,” said fifth-grade teacher Sara Siebert.

The challenge for teachers is that projects that truly help students meet the Common Core standards take a lot of thoughtful planning, said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

“The teacher has to think about what kids need to do to execute a project successfully, to be ready in case a student is going down a dead-end, and be able to design ways for the student to demonstrate his or her learning,” Darling-Hammond said.

In Santa Ana, project-based learning – in the form of what the district calls performance tasks – has been fully integrated into the school curriculum, such that teachers are expected to include such tasks in every subject area. To prepare them, over a two-year period nearly four dozen so-called CLAS teachers – Certificated Learning and Achievement Specialists – on special assignment helped coach teachers on all aspects of Common Core implementation, including performance tasks in every unit of study.

Santiago Elementary School teacher Sara Seibert, right, uses project-based learning to engage students and encourage critical thinking and collaboration skills, such as a project based on the Gary Paulsen book "Hatchet," in which students built popsicle-stick rafts and tested their seaworthiness in tubs of water.

Louis Freedberg/EdSource Today

Santiago Elementary School teacher Sara Seibert, right, uses project-based learning to engage students and encourage critical thinking and collaboration skills.

Seibert has gone further than what district officials require, making projects a central part of her 5th-grade curriculum.

For example, when students studied astronomy, she had them read both fiction and non-fiction texts related to the issues they studied. Students then had to research a planet and work with a partner to create an alien out of materials they found that could populate that planet, and then present their alien to their classmates.

“They don’t realize how hard they are working,” Siebert said. “They are collaborating with peers. They are able to be creative. They are disagreeing along the way, but from those disagreements comes better work. These are all skills they will be able to use throughout life, in their future jobs, in friendship and relationships.”

In a particularly vivid example of California schools’ new attention to project-based learning, the San Jose Unified School District has spent $150,000 over the past year to train 70 teachers at Lincoln High School to focus more heavily on interdisciplinary projects.

“This is really helping us to transition to the Common Core, and to help students acquire all the skills the new standards require – to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and be creative,” said Lincoln High Principal Matthew Hewitson.

Students have completed “hundreds” of projects, Hewitson said. Physics and algebra students, for instance, have used their math skills to design theater sets, while English and social studies students have produced an online magazine tackling the issue of cultural notions of beauty, how fashion models are portrayed, and the resulting impact on high schoolers’ self esteem.

“Every project has a driving question that leads to a product, or a solution to a social issue or a proposed answer to some sort of research question,” Hewitson said. Students, he added, are challenged “to behave as we all do in the real world on a daily basis, collecting information from multiple sources, analyzing, making judgments, and working with others to produce something useful.”

Teachers’ choice of classroom projects varies widely.

At Sunnyside High School in Fresno, science students recently spent a week charting the life-cycle of earthworms, recording observations in journals. At Drake High School in San Anselmo, sophomore history students studying World War II formed teams to write and perform small skits in which they played the part of Japanese soldiers, American prisoners and scientists debating whether to deploy nuclear weapons.

“At its best, a project will get students deeply involved in exploring a content area, so that they feel like they understand the issues deeply and can demonstrate their learning in ways that are engaging and ideally have an audience beyond the teacher,” Darling-Hammond said.

The idea behind project-based learning long predates the Common Core.

The concept, if not the name, first came into use more than 100 years ago, when education reformers challenged the rote memorization style of learning then standard in most public schools. The earliest advocates of what was initially called “experiential education” included William Heard Kilpatrick, a professor at Teachers College of Columbia University, who in 1918 wrote a book titled “The Project Method.”

Another major influence in the development of project-based learning has been the work of Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist credited in 1956 with proposing a taxonomy, or classification, of teaching goals. Bloom placed “knowledge” at the base of a pyramid of cognitive levels, which rose, in turn, to include comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

At its higher levels, the taxonomy “moves you more toward project-based learning that requires synthesis and problem-solving, as opposed to rote recitation, where you told me the answer, I memorized it and I recited it back to you,” said Santa Ana Unified School District Superintendent Rick Miller.

“If I teach a quadratic equation, you might ask, ‘Why in the heck are we doing this?'” Miller said. “On the other hand, if we have a project that involves a quadratic equation, you might say, ‘OK, I understand some of the reasons why this might be helpful to me.'”

Early practitioners of project-based learning devised imaginative ways to capture students’ attention. In Winnetka, Ill., in the 1920s, school superintendent Carleton Washburne taught first-graders about the postal system by having them create a school post office and encouraged fourth-graders to learn about astronomy by viewing the night sky through a telescope and building a solar system to scale in the school gym. Washburne also organized “student corporations” that offered hands-on experience with working-world pursuits. Kids bred chickens, rabbits and hamsters to sell, worked in the school cafeteria, and made loans through a student credit union.

At Aspire Public Schools, the charter-school network, teachers were assigning projects long before the implementation of the Common Core, said Chief Academic Officer Elise Darwish.

“Kids go in-depth into a topic they’re interested in and they research it, and then they do a formal presentation to an outside audience about what they learned,” Darwish said.

The surging interest in project based-learning has inspired considerable professional development efforts and work by specialized consultants. About 650 educators from 15 countries attended a dedicated conference on project-based learning in Napa last year, called PBL World. The June conference, to be held in Napa again this year, is sponsored by the Buck Institute of Education, which specializes entirely in project-based learning.

At Santa Ana’s Santiago Elementary School, principal Debra Prieto said the district’s emphasis on project-based learning has energized both students and teachers.

“Teachers are inviting administrators to come into the classroom, because they have as much excitement as the kids have,” she said. “It is a big deal.”


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  1. Concerned Parent Reporter 1 year ago1 year ago

    My first working article is.
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    DOES

    PROJECT BASED

    LEARNING LEAD TO

    GRADE INFLATION IN

    CALIFORNIA’S SCHOOLS

  2. Concerned parent 1 year ago1 year ago

    The term PBL project based learning in any discussion must show this: . . 1. Which grade level are we talking about? . . ELEMENTARY . . MIDDLE SCHOOL . . .OR GOOD OL HIGH SCHOOL . . Then when speaking about PBL one must denote the % of time PBL is intended to be taught for each subject, is it going to be taught 5% of the school year, . . . 10% . . . 25% . . . 50% . . . Or as the article says by the Buck Off Institute perhaps the entire bulk of the time. . . I believe in another … Read More

    The term PBL project based learning in any discussion must show this:
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    1. Which grade level are we talking about?
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    ELEMENTARY
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    MIDDLE SCHOOL
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    .OR GOOD OL HIGH SCHOOL
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    Then when speaking about PBL one must denote the % of time PBL is intended to be taught for each subject, is it going to be taught 5% of the school year,
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    10%
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    25%
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    50%
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    Or as the article says by the Buck Off Institute perhaps the entire bulk of the time.
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    I believe in another edsource article the Institute Of Problems That Go On With Group Learning said that “CONTENT IS NOT TAUGHT SO KIDS GET TO EXPERIENCE THE AHHH HA HA MOMENTS.”
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    So let’s say teachers in elementary schools are doin project based learning more,than 40%, this may not allow the teachers to cover all common core standards…but in alternative high schools , after students got content knowledge in lower grades, it may be that project based learning over 50% is OK to,do.

    can some Ed source writer go and interview New Tech Network and Buck Institute and get the view from these PBL,organizations on how or if individual testing is done, or if math benchmarks are done.

    PBL may take too much time for teacher prep panning
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    PBL may not effectively measure individual mastery of knowledge,of math and science (group grades may be bogus).

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    Can some teachers privately post here and some parents like the one that posted above, to say if PBL was good or not in elem school, middle school and or high school,
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    Also, notice this article took,facts only from high schools, I ask the Ed source editor to ask the author of this article to check and report if individual testing is taking place in PBL elementary schools…
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    .if elem and middle, and high, are not all visited by a writer we get , in my opinion
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    P
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    .R
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    …O
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    …… P
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    ……….A
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    ………………..A
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    ……………………N
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    ……………………….D
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    ……………………………A
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    .Articles
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    And ask, and see,
    . What individual testing is used at this school…
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    And just report out the facts

    Replies

    • Concerned parent 1 year ago1 year ago

      Another thing that ticks me off is the amount of prep time is not considered that the teacher had to do, and the money for the popsiclemsticks, snd tubs, and well, PBL needs lots of . . . TIME . . .somall teacher and unions will need to add 2 hours of in class teacher time fot the teachers to cover PBL and all common core standards . . . Why is it teachers do not speak out more about the pressure they must be … Read More

      Another thing that ticks me off is the amount of prep time is not considered that the teacher had to do, and the money for the popsiclemsticks, snd tubs, and well, PBL needs lots of
      .
      .
      .
      TIME
      .
      .
      .somall teacher and unions will need to add 2 hours of in class teacher time fot the teachers to cover PBL and all common core standards
      .
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      Why is it teachers do not speak out more about the pressure they must be under, all the while, knowing, that they are not effective teachers and learning is regressing…
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      How about some teachers , jus simple teachers, not spokespersons for them, just middle of the road teachers start posting on edsource the trials you went through in year 2014-2015.
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      I feel sorry for the teachers who remain quiet about the terrible state of the educational climate in California.

      • Concerned parent 1 year ago1 year ago

        One more thing... . . . I ask that if Ms. Ellison and Mr Freedberg do an article for Ed source that you speak to the pro,and the con of the issue you write about... . . . How about following the rules of reporting or postings . . . OPINION PIECE ON PROJECT BASED LEARNING...WE REALLY THINK IT'S THE CAT'S MEOW!!!!! . . . I may apply as a writer for Ed source to gt reporting back to where it needs to be. . . I will show data and show with honor … Read More

        One more thing…

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        I ask that if Ms. Ellison and Mr Freedberg do an article for Ed source that you speak to the pro,and the con of the issue you write about…
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        How about following the rules of reporting or postings
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        OPINION PIECE ON PROJECT BASED LEARNING…WE REALLY THINK IT’S THE CAT’S MEOW!!!!!

        .
        .
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        I may apply as a writer for Ed source to gt reporting back to where it needs to be.
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        I will show data and show with honor bothmsidesmof any issue.
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        I am now going by the title of

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        .CONCERNED PARENT REPORTER

  3. CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

    Previous post from me not spam. It’s John Oliver on testpalooza.

  4. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    If NCLB's narrow, high stakes, teach-to-the test, math and ELA-only characteristics are inimical to quality education, so is Common Core and its test consortiums, SBAC and PARCC. We still have the same "compete or else" regimen in force which is no surprise as NCLB has yet to be replaced so that its threats of penalty can be waived for use as a truncheon. Gary's belief in Common Core as the "answer" to NCLB seems … Read More

    If NCLB’s narrow, high stakes, teach-to-the test, math and ELA-only characteristics are inimical to quality education, so is Common Core and its test consortiums, SBAC and PARCC. We still have the same “compete or else” regimen in force which is no surprise as NCLB has yet to be replaced so that its threats of penalty can be waived for use as a truncheon. Gary’s belief in Common Core as the “answer” to NCLB seems to play into or is a part of the public relations-inspired mythology cropping up around its magic-bullet status. Marvel Comics could not have sold it better. But, if anything, CCSS’s has turned up the heat on national and international competition and made public education even more of a horse race. This is what happens when you replace Alice in Wonderland for informational text. People should stop buying into the ridiculous claims that critical thinking and deep reading are contemporary pedagogical developments.

  5. MOMwithAbrain 1 year ago1 year ago

    This is interesting considering the supporters of Common Core continue to tell us that this is just about a set of standards. Now we are beginning to see that indeed, Common Core also directs a teacher on pedagogy too. Something that's been denied by the bureaucrats in my state. These articles never offer a critical analysis of these reforms. Why is that? I have had a negative experience w/PBL a few years ago when … Read More

    This is interesting considering the supporters of Common Core continue to tell us that this is just about a set of standards. Now we are beginning to see that indeed, Common Core also directs a teacher on pedagogy too. Something that’s been denied by the bureaucrats in my state.

    These articles never offer a critical analysis of these reforms. Why is that?

    I have had a negative experience w/PBL a few years ago when my child was in middle school.

    The teacher required the students to learn science through PBL. I heard complaints from my child on how he wasn’t learning anything. The social time is often spent socializing. It also ate up a large amount of time the kids could be learning science content.

    The teacher did acknowledge that the project one group worked on would be something those kids learned well. However the other group wouldn’t have had the same amount of work so that group wouldn’t have the “in-depth” knowledge.

    Some of the kids who were self-motivated ended up doing most of the work while the lazier kids got a free ride.

    Some of the parents asked why their child who led the group and taught the others, was not receiving the teacher’s salary.

    PBL is part of turning teachers into facilitators. This has been around for a while and there are enough studies that suggest this lowers academic achievement in core classes like math and science.

    What we discovered is that this is really part of the Obama redesign to Outcome Based Ed. An old fad from the 90’s that didn’t do anything to improve academic achievement. It’s been called school-to-work, Competency Based Ed, etc.

    What’s interesting is that Obama is redesigning public ed and no parents asked for it.

    Replies

    • Manuel 1 year ago1 year ago

      I see Obama’s fingerprints on this as “sins of omission” rather than “sins of commission.”

      The buck may stop at his desk, but he is certainly not driving this bus.

      Oh, well, he makes for a convenient target and a total distraction since those who are behind this are out to make a dollar.

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        I'm kind of amazed you would claim, Manuel, that this issue is one of omission when Common Core would have been impossible without the federal overreach of Obama's USDE. It seems the height of naiveté to imply he's just a bit player in someone else's redesign of education. And even if his corporate masters are in the driver's seat, casting the POTUS as a pawn doesn't rise to the level of a plausibility. Obama duped? … Read More

        I’m kind of amazed you would claim, Manuel, that this issue is one of omission when Common Core would have been impossible without the federal overreach of Obama’s USDE. It seems the height of naiveté to imply he’s just a bit player in someone else’s redesign of education. And even if his corporate masters are in the driver’s seat, casting the POTUS as a pawn doesn’t rise to the level of a plausibility. Obama duped? I don’t think so. It is more likely that the governors were duped by him.

        • Manuel 1 year ago1 year ago

          There you go again, being a troll. What? Do you think calling my opinion the height of naivete is not ad hominem? Why, oh, why are you allowed to stick that kind of innuendo in your posts? The posted rules of EdSource do not allow me to give you the response you deserve, so I'll leave it at that. Anyway, I see it as "plausible deniability." Obama has never, AFAIK, addressed all the education issues that Duncan … Read More

          There you go again, being a troll.

          What? Do you think calling my opinion the height of naivete is not ad hominem? Why, oh, why are you allowed to stick that kind of innuendo in your posts? The posted rules of EdSource do not allow me to give you the response you deserve, so I’ll leave it at that.

          Anyway, I see it as “plausible deniability.” Obama has never, AFAIK, addressed all the education issues that Duncan is mucking up because, well, because Duncan is the convenient fall gay who is carrying the water for the people who forked over money for Obama’s campaigns. Pay back time, if you will. Obama can always claim it wasn’t his true policy since the states had a choice: accept RTTT or decline the money. He can always claim that he expected Duncan to do the right thing as he had done in Chicago.

          So, yes, sins of omission it is for me. I am sticking to my story despite your obvious attempt to poke the bear.

          • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

            Manuel, Washington Post -"How Gates Pulled Off The Swift Common Core Revolution" "...Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration....The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers … Read More

            Manuel,

            Washington Post -“How Gates Pulled Off The Swift Common Core Revolution”

            “…Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration….The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards….Gates money went to state and local groups, as well, to help influence policymakers and civic leaders. And the idea found a major booster in President Obama, whose new administration was populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates. The administration designed a special contest using economic stimulus funds to reward states that accepted the standards….The result was astounding: Within just two years of the 2008 Seattle meeting, 45 states and the District of Columbia had fully adopted the Common Core State Standards.”

            Manuel, plausible deniability is an agenda, a strategy, as opposed to the sin of omission. But I wouldn’t say it was either. Do you really believe Obama’s not up to his neck in Common Core? I mean, really?

    • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

      Very glad you brought this up. I have always been dismayed about CC coverage that talked about apparent 'pedagogical' methodology as part and parcel of the standards themselves. This fact is simply repeated without any corroboration at all. In some cases it happens to be true, in others, I expect not. I think 'journalists' who cover CC should reference the sections in question when they make claims about what the standards say. This would force … Read More

      Very glad you brought this up. I have always been dismayed about CC coverage that talked about apparent ‘pedagogical’ methodology as part and parcel of the standards themselves. This fact is simply repeated without any corroboration at all. In some cases it happens to be true, in others, I expect not.
      I think ‘journalists’ who cover CC should reference the sections in question when they make claims about what the standards say. This would force them to also recognize that some of the related concepts come from other things.
      That said, it appears that some aspects of PBL are in fact in the standards directly. For example, there are sections in virtually every grade level in the ELA standard that mention ‘collaboration with peers’ or ‘others’. In fact, all the speaking and listening standards include a section called ‘comprehension and collaboration’. This seems to be the basis for the movement toward PBL.

      As to the point about becoming facilitators, there is also wording in the rest of the k-5 standards that says ‘with some guidance and support from adults…’
      Interestingly, in the secondary grades this wording becomes ‘with some guidance and support from peers and adults…’
      I agree that there is a danger in taking this too literally. And part of me believes one of its intents is to reduce teacher responsibility so their value (and thus pay) can be reduced. (even if unintentional, the comments you cite from parents shows how this dynamic could manifest).
      Interestingly, the math standards include no such language and are more ‘matter of fact’.
      Along a similar vein, technology is also explicitly mentioned in the ELA standards starting in 3rd grade, with the mention of ‘digital media’ starting in 1st grade. If your school does not have a district-funded computer lab or technology directly in the classroom then there is no way they can ‘implement’ these standards.
      It’s very worth actually reading these documents. I wish we also had access to the background drivers that result in the curricular decisions so that we can see the justification for how they satisfy those items. Let alone justification for the items in the standard in the first place!
      Alas, politics is much easier..

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        "Collaboration with peers" is not a requirement of PBL, though most projects are collaborative by choice, particularly after the 2nd grade. The cost of materials and the number of projects makes it difficult to do otherwise. Collaborative learning entails its own set of challenges. Many students do very poorly in group projects and which are often beset by lack of participation even while grades are handed our collectively. This, of course, leads to … Read More

        “Collaboration with peers” is not a requirement of PBL, though most projects are collaborative by choice, particularly after the 2nd grade. The cost of materials and the number of projects makes it difficult to do otherwise. Collaborative learning entails its own set of challenges. Many students do very poorly in group projects and which are often beset by lack of participation even while grades are handed our collectively. This, of course, leads to a lot of anxiety surrounding the interpersonal relationships – all of which is time consuming and a major distraction to the project itself. I’ve seen teachers who can’t control certain students pass the buck to students to do that job within the group. Collaboration is seen as required instructional methodology even when it repeatedly fails.

      • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

        The standards reflect the intended outcomes. Within that frame, there is every chance that a change in classroom outcomes will drive a change in instructional/pedagogical methodology. The fundamental assumptions of the simplistic NCLB outcomes, performance on tests, was always predicated on the "direct instruction model." The teacher standing in front of a static class of students pouring knowledge into their heads. That is not the best way to see that kids learn, if by learning, … Read More

        The standards reflect the intended outcomes. Within that frame, there is every chance that a change in classroom outcomes will drive a change in instructional/pedagogical methodology. The fundamental assumptions of the simplistic NCLB outcomes, performance on tests, was always predicated on the “direct instruction model.” The teacher standing in front of a static class of students pouring knowledge into their heads. That is not the best way to see that kids learn, if by learning, you mean kids getting information in ways that are understandable and can be usefully applied to help solve problems/interpret events/understand their world, etc.

        Direct instruction, when taken to extreme as it was for that last decade, can be said to be “bulimic education,” students are pumped full of unrelated “facts” and then regurgitate on demand for the assessment. This can result in “thinking disorders.”

        PBL, the teacher acting as “facilitator” (the guide on the side as opposed to the sage on the stage) is more difficult than many might believe. When done well. It takes a lot of coaching and/or experience. It also takes a lot of energy and enormous amounts of planning to “facilitate” five or six groups of students, keeping them on task, seeing that every one has a part, seeing that they are “on track” in terms of content, and finding ways to encourage thinking when they are not so a course correction can occur.

        I know of no teacher that uses PBL all the time. Even direct instruction, when you want to cover material quickly and not too deeply, is a useful strategy at times. Just not all the time.

        • Manuel 1 year ago1 year ago

          You know, Gary, as you were explaining the "guide on the side" concept, I couldn't help but recall that scene in "Monty Python's Holy Grail" where the shortly-to-be-named Sir Bedevere is guiding the crowd on how to tell if the woman is a witch or not. Obviously, the Socratic method goes to hell pretty rapidly if the guide has no training and, worse, is not knowledgeable on the subject matter. Therefore, the guide on the … Read More

          You know, Gary, as you were explaining the “guide on the side” concept, I couldn’t help but recall that scene in “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” where the shortly-to-be-named Sir Bedevere is guiding the crowd on how to tell if the woman is a witch or not.

          Obviously, the Socratic method goes to hell pretty rapidly if the guide has no training and, worse, is not knowledgeable on the subject matter. Therefore, the guide on the side needs to also be trained as the sage on the stage and must be able to switch between the two roles as needed.

          Of course, the descriptiveness of the CC standards are going to create havoc in the classroom because some nitwit somewhere will insist that it is a sacred text and its commandments must be followed come hell or high water.

          Oh, well, suffer the children… and the teachers…

          • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

            I can't disagree with your comments about the need for training. Solid opportunities for quality professional development in CA's schools has suffered along with everything else because of the state's abysmal school funding. Implementation of CCSS will not be an easy journey for either teachers or students, but journeys are never easy when you start form a deep pit rather than on an even playing field. Your concerns about fanatics holding the CCSS, as with the … Read More

            I can’t disagree with your comments about the need for training. Solid opportunities for quality professional development in CA’s schools has suffered along with everything else because of the state’s abysmal school funding. Implementation of CCSS will not be an easy journey for either teachers or students, but journeys are never easy when you start form a deep pit rather than on an even playing field.

            Your concerns about fanatics holding the CCSS, as with the last set of standards, to be holy writ are undoubtedly also true. The usual suspects and career practitioners of public school criticism are waiting to bludgeon schools and teachers with CCSS and assessment dogma. In fact, a number of them are not waiting.

            As I have stated often, I don’t think standards per se have brought much to the instructional table. I also don’t see much in the way of a national movement to abandon standards entirely. There is, what I perceive to be, a rather hysterical overreaction to CCSS much of it because of the ritual hysterical overreaction to anything that seems, even remotely, to be associated with Obama. Duncan seems to be a mixed bag in this context. Certainly he helped poison the well for CCSS and either of the new assessments because of his ham-handed efforts with RTTT, SIG, public statements, etc. On the other hand his incompetence has helped undermine the general USDE overreach that began with NCLB.

            As I have also stated numerous times I now see the CCSS to be something of a tabula rasa where the picture of its potential impacts, for good or evil, are yet to be written. It all depends on if teachers are allowed to instruct as they see best and supports made available for the schools and children. In the CA context I understand your pessimism.

        • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

          There is a difference between methodology being influenced by goals and methodology being explicit in the standards. And my comment was not intended to criticize the changes I highlighted, only to point out their source and that this is different (perhaps even in a significant way) than in previous standards (though I dont think these notions are new either). I do think not enough people actually understand or have read the standards. Ironically, we have … Read More

          There is a difference between methodology being influenced by goals and methodology being explicit in the standards. And my comment was not intended to criticize the changes I highlighted, only to point out their source and that this is different (perhaps even in a significant way) than in previous standards (though I dont think these notions are new either). I do think not enough people actually understand or have read the standards.

          Ironically, we have seen that methodology is clearly not the source of ‘the gap’ as we currently define it. As we go out of our way to show that education in this country works really well for some people by certain measures. If working really well can produce ‘thinking disorders’, seems we may be having the wrong conversation.

          • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

            Navigio: Recall that prior to the last set of standards we had "Frameworks" that did indeed have suggested instructional strategies that teachers could, or could not, use in the classroom. The Frameworks were largely a product of the CDE synthesizing strategies that came from actual classroom practitioners. With the advent of "standards" with the accompanying accountability measures [sic] and then highly prescriptive textbooks with pacing guides that districts enforced via evaluations (and then, of course, there … Read More

            Navigio:

            Recall that prior to the last set of standards we had “Frameworks” that did indeed have suggested instructional strategies that teachers could, or could not, use in the classroom. The Frameworks were largely a product of the CDE synthesizing strategies that came from actual classroom practitioners. With the advent of “standards” with the accompanying accountability measures [sic] and then highly prescriptive textbooks with pacing guides that districts enforced via evaluations (and then, of course, there were the test scores) things became much more regimented in the classrooms. Much autonomy exercised by actual teachers was taken away. The pacing guides and prescriptive curriculum was sourced not from classroom experience, but from publishing houses. What could possibly go wrong?

            As to “thinking disorders,” these came in many forms, not the least of which was the prescriptive model outlined above. Kids in the neediest schools were denied well rounded education (and recess!) to focus on the strategies which, theoretically, would lead to higher scores. Then there was the “bulimic education,” with disjointed facts going in one ear and out the end of a pencil bubbling in test answer sheets and then into the ether. I could go on about “helicopter parents,” but those stories have been told.

            Within this framework there were things that worked. More kids graduated from high school and more qualified for college (as the colleges rejected them because of funding issues). So, teachers made the best of a bad situation, but this was in spite of the system imposed by standards and testing, not because of it. And somewhere in there the intent of education has been sidelined to being about college and career. Education ought to be about becoming the most highly functioning person you can be and being a good and contributing citizen, not about reaching the next level in the achievement ladder and total lifetime earnings.

            And, finally, you suggested that PBL might be about demeaning the profession of teaching and allowing professional salaries to be undermined. I was suggesting just the opposite is true. Doing PBL right is much more sophisticated a task than is “direct instruction.” And here my apologies to Madeline Hunter, but PBL requires more training and experience (=more pay). This is why billionaires, resentful of the five figure incomes of most teachers, are big fans of direct instruction. Direct instruction is the fundamental model that was emphasized (distorted really) by the scripted, pace guided, drill&kill classroom instruction that was the outcome of the standards, testing, and pseudo-accountability regime. This is why Gate’s could suggest class sizes of 50 or more. That can only be done with docile kids sitting in rows quietly focused on worksheets–and not PBL. And it would mean, with huge class sizes, less public money (taxes) would be needed to support the schools.

            So why would Gates support CCSS if it implies better trained, more experienced, higher paid teachers? I can’t say. I can only assume he did not see those implications.

    • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

      MOM: As to your statement: "This has been around for a while and there are enough studies that suggest this lowers academic achievement in core classes like math and science." No, there aren't "enough studies" that demonstrate this. In fact, when it comes to legitimate studies there aren't any. With your mentioning of the "fads" etc., it appears you have been reading too many ultra-right web sites. Those are all the old right-wing dog-whistles when certain … Read More

      MOM:

      As to your statement: “This has been around for a while and there are enough studies that suggest this lowers academic achievement in core classes like math and science.”

      No, there aren’t “enough studies” that demonstrate this. In fact, when it comes to legitimate studies there aren’t any. With your mentioning of the “fads” etc., it appears you have been reading too many ultra-right web sites. Those are all the old right-wing dog-whistles when certain groups get fearful enough that their kids may be able to think.

      The biggest damage to science instruction in the last decade is the concentration on “academic achievement” as measured by standardized tests for Math and ELA. Science, as well as History, as well as the Arts, as well as recess has been ignored or even eliminated in the race for that all powerful “academic achievement.” At that, even Math scores as measured by the only real national test (NAEP) flatlined.

      Time to branch out a little.

  6. Jennifer peck 1 year ago1 year ago

    This kind of project-based learning, such as the building of the raft in the novel and the range of skills it promotes, are something our vast network of expanded learning programs in California have been doing for many years in the after school and summer program hours. This type of teaching is fun and engaging for kids, and growing recognition of this approach is one of the exciting results of the implementation of the … Read More

    This kind of project-based learning, such as the building of the raft in the novel and the range of skills it promotes, are something our vast network of expanded learning programs in California have been doing for many years in the after school and summer program hours. This type of teaching is fun and engaging for kids, and growing recognition of this approach is one of the exciting results of the implementation of the Common Core standards. California, between state and federal dollars, supports more than 4,500 expanded learning programs in low-income schools across the state, which provide additional time for project-based learning and reinforcement of the skills students need to have for their future. School leaders and teachers should partner closely with the after school and summer programs on their campuses to maximize the additional learning time these programs provide, and capitalize on their inherent strengths and experience in delivering project-based learning.

  7. Karen Bracken 1 year ago1 year ago

    First, teachers have ALWAYS had the ability to do these types of exercises with students and most did. We didn't need Common Core to tell us to use these types of exercises in the class room. And there is nothing wrong and much that is right about memorization. It builds instant recall, it builds ones ability to store and regurgitate information instantly. How many times has a great memory … Read More

    First, teachers have ALWAYS had the ability to do these types of exercises with students and most did. We didn’t need Common Core to tell us to use these types of exercises in the class room. And there is nothing wrong and much that is right about memorization. It builds instant recall, it builds ones ability to store and regurgitate information instantly. How many times has a great memory worked in your favor? How many times has a bad memory worked against you? What is the first sign of aging….a loss of instant recall and memory? What kind of exercises do they give the aging to sharpen memory? Memorization exercises!!! You need to exercise your memory to build a good memory. Don’t use it you lose it. Just like Algebra…..might never use it but the skills you develop are used everyday. Cursive writing…..you might type most of the time but cursive writing builds many skills beside just the ability to write in cursive. Get your uninformed mind out of the sand. Question these people. Don’t take their word as the authority. Remember most of them get paid to say this stuff and most have an agenda that isn’t even related to good education. Most of them are progressive whackos. Return to basic classical pre-1965 education and you will see America return to the excellent academics we had before all these nut jobs started getting rich off their schemes and projects that never work and only make a lot of people very wealthy. Blooms TAXONOMY are you kidding me?? This alone tells me what is behind this garbage. Linda Darling-Hammond is one of the most progressive “educators” (?) in America. Her failing schools in CA should say all you need to know about her. She is also behind CSCOPE and Smarter Balance.

    Replies

    • Parent News Opinion 1 year ago1 year ago

      Wow, Ms. Bracken, I like your strength and the way you write your views so clearly, and I hope you are involved in high level decision making for education in whatever you do. I think too, that when we look at the popsicycle sticks in the water with the flag, is this good project based learning? It seems that the quality of education in some classrooms is being lowered by the so called … Read More

      Wow, Ms. Bracken, I like your strength and the way you write your views so clearly, and I hope you are involved in high level decision making for education in whatever you do. I think too, that when we look at the popsicycle sticks in the water with the flag, is this good project based learning? It seems that the quality of education in some classrooms is being lowered by the so called experts telling the teachers with vast years of experience how to now teach differently. I say, let the teachers have time to internalize the common core mandated state standards in each subject, and let the teachers design a curriculum map for each subject, give them plenty of time, and ask them to share out with parents with on line curriculum maps too, so parents can help the learning at home. What is going on is way too much prep time is being asked of teachers to teach in new fangled ways and the training companies are pulling in vast amounts of monies to retrain teachers who really can do it on their own with use of video web training at a fraction of the cost. California is spending vast amounts of monies to try to train teachers, but at the end of each training, is there a true gathering of if the training was indeed valuable or not. I say as parent opinion, the thing to do is for all common core standards to be checked and if they are not being covered then the parents will need to speak out through the P.T.A. The P.T.A. will be the fulcrum of possible change. I only hope that the P.T.A. is not going to be too political and instead really hear parent concern and pave the way, with parents helping teachers, to help ensure all common core standards are indeed covered and teachers do not burn out in the process of this cataclysmic change.

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