Sunday, April 6, 2014

Austin Experiences Project Based Learning...

If you've followed us for any length of time, you know that Austin Elementary is on a journey to implement the Schoolwide Enrichement Model (SEM).  You also know that as a district, we are digging deep ("soaking") into the CISD Learning Framework.  Additionally, each campus has been charged with selecting a learning design model (UbD or PBL).  Austin Elementary has selected Project Based Learning because of how closely it aligns with SEM Enrichment Clusters.  Put all of this together, and you have somewhat of a PD melting pot.  

With that in mind, we set out to design a meaningful learning experience for our educators that (hopefully) can kill three PD birds (SEM, Learning Framework, and PBL) with one stone.  Thus, our Austin educator PBL unit was born!  If done correctly, this educator PBL unit could help strengthen our understanding of the relationship between SEM and the CISD Learning Framework, AND provide the opportunity for our educators to actually experience a PBL unit as we go through the training.  

Our work on this PBL unit will culminate with a presentation to the Education Committee of the Coppell Chamber of Commerce on May 6th.  Take a look at a few of the features/components of this PBL unit below, and be sure to check back in May for a posting of the actual final product!

Entry Event

As with any PBL unit, educators attempt to design an entry event that is meaningful and provides an authentic audience for your final product/presentation.  Our Austin Elementary educator PBL unit found that authentic audience in the Coppell Chamber of Commerce.  We were excited to host the President of the Chamber at a January faculty meeting where she invited Austin educators to come and share our story with the Chamber and inform them how our work with SEM is helping realize the vision/ideas set forth in the CISD Learning Framework.

Knows / Needs to Know  

One thing that stood out from our 4th/5th grade PBL training in the Fall was how we as educators must be responsive in our unit design to the questions ("Need to Knows") generated by our learners.  This was no different for our Austin educator PBL unit.  We used this list of Need to Knows to gauge progress on their product and respond with appropriate workshops.  

Driving Question

Rather than coming in with a pre-designed Driving Question for our PBL unit, we waited and gave our learners (in this case, Austin educators) the opportunity to participate in the process of identifying that question.  Each team began by brainstorming and creating a statement that "summed up" what we were trying to do (i.e. "create a presentation for the Chamber that shows the relationship between SEM and the CISD Learning Framework").  From there, a facilitator worked with the group of Project Managers to craft our Driving Question which was then adopted by the group as a whole.  Here's what they came up with...   How can we as Austin Elementary educators showcase the correlation between SEM and the CISD Learning Framework to the Coppell Chamber of Commerce in order to facilitate reciprocal relationships?

PBL Unit Rubric

In designing the rubric for our Austin educator PBL, we were very strategic in when we wanted to roll it out to our learners.  If we shared the rubric with our participants too soon, we worried that it would restrict their thinking, and educators would immediately begin working on their product and trying to meet the requirements of the rubric.  Instead, we chose to provide the rubric a couple of meetings in so that educators would have time to brainstorm without the confines of the rubric.  


As we said earlier, workshops offered throughout a PBL unit should be responsive to the questions/needs of learners.  Some workshops that we have offered so far include-
  • a workshop for finding research/resources that support the Schoolwide Enrichment Model,
  • a "flipped" workshop on selecting a product for your presentation,
  • a workshop on the five components of the Learning Framework.  
As we continue our work over the remaining few weeks, we will provide any additional workshops that our learners may need!

"Flipped" Presentation Tool Workshop

Please be sure to check back in May to see the final products/presentations from our PBL unit!

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