PBL in a Diverse Classroom. Followed by a few comments on Driving Question.
This week, like so many others, I turned to social media for help. I joined a PBL Facebook site to learn more. A teacher asked the group for recommendations about how best to meet the needs of her diverse classroom. She went on to explain that her classroom has a wide range of cognitive ability, from special education to the gifted students. I love the famous Einstein quote “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Traditional learning does not offer as many choices to facilitate learning and assessing as PBL does.
When designing our PBL activities and assessments, it is important to keep diversity in mind. Students are given choices in PBL which provides them the opportunity to drive and demonstrate their learning using a modality best suited to their abilities and interests. This also results in various ways of looking at and solving the problem for all to share. The variety of solutions becomes one of the best learning tools when it is time to reflect, another benefit of PBL.
Since PBL is predominantly conducted in collaborative groups, another advantage for diverse learners is that team members can play off each other’s strengths and learn from each other.
PBL is also where deeper learning should take place, so when designing the assessments, we want to help the students by creating a clear picture of what a good product will look like. Since PBL includes formative, ongoing, assessment and feedback, students have an opportunity to correct their sail as they go. The Cumulative Rubric is often designed to assess a variety of skills but also offers leveling up to encourage students to take learning higher to earn as many points as possible. In a regular classroom, students with special needs might find themselves in a downward spiral. In PBL, these students should be able to work with their team, receive teacher guidance, and find their best way to show what they know and can do.
The driving question is used to guide students and give them purpose, in addition, it creates interest or challenge. For the teacher, it guides planning, should line up with the standards and communicates the purpose. A driving question launches the inquiry and helps keep the inquiry focused. Our Driving Question is a problem-solving PBL. Criteria for it include that it is engaging, and it should align with learning standards. We also need to ask a set of guiding sub-questions. We wrote these to further guide the learning and inquiry. Here is a link to our site and our questions. We also created entry events to hook and generate excitement.