Last term my faculty and I embarked on the first Project Based Learning ( the real PBL to be talked about here) task for Year 7 Japanese learners. Year 7 are 12-13 years old and in their first year of high school. We have always done PBL tasks with smaller elective classes, however with ten Yr 7 classes; this was going to be a challenge (about 290 students). Whilst using many fabulous resources from the Buck Institute, Canvas also has its own benefits for making this work.
Canvas has made PBL tasks what they should be. I call the other PBL – previously beetroot laden tasks as in the past when tasks were handed out on paper, the sheet was lost in the student’s backpack somewhere (not unlike Dr Who’s Tardis) and usually came out weeks later with beetroot stains on it.
The Project (a film in Japanese approximately 2-3 mins long) was able to be completely scaffolded for all learners over several pages and then groups could have their own ‘Canvas site’ to control which made their lives easier for messaging, document control, versioning and collaboration – in particular out of school hours work.
Group contracts and project management logs could be saved as collaborative documents or just as a separate page, the students were also marked on keeping learning blogs, which the discussion tool was used for. The discussion was used as an individual blog (each child named the discussion their own name) - they replied to themselves after each lesson, which meant there was a time and date stamp, as well as a record of their own progress.
The calendar was used to organise their project management logs for the group as well as filming times, messages to each other about what everyone needed to bring each lesson.
The student contracts, project management logs, and teacher ‘check-ins’ were marked on to the assessment rubric as we progressed through the term. Marks were allocated on the rubric to the work in class as the students advanced through their tasks. By the time the project was due to be filmed, it was the last major part of the marking left for the teachers.
There was also another separate rubric that students had to fill in at the end of the filming by themselves. It was a self-evaluation to assess their own future learning skills. This was achieved by setting up a few laptops with the teacher logged in and the students found their name in Speedgrader and ‘marked themselves’. This was based on:
- Focus on the Task / Participation
- Shared Responsibility
- Listening, Questioning and Discussing
- Research and Information Sharing
- Problem Solving
The Speedgrader rubric was a great process for the students to evaluate themselves without having to complete surveys or long answers (poor little things were tired). They were also allocated marks for completing the self-evaluation rubric, not the score they gave themselves to encourage them to answer more honestly about their work. From my own classes (3 classes = 90 students) the data showed that 20% rated themselves highly in all five sections, 55% of students thought they were average and 25% felt they were poor at demonstrating these skills. The wrap up was a very interesting discussion as to how they feel these skills will help them later in life. When asked about how they felt Canvas helped them in their projects, the responses were equally mixed as some found it easy, others difficult, and many responded with the feeling that it was difficult to hide from the workload – their friends were checking, their teachers were checking and their parents/caregivers could observe too.
Overall a great experience, PBL is highly differentiated, but also needs a level of organisation and kindness to achieve. One class did have to complete some ‘teamwork remediation’ as changing groups every lesson because ‘they all hate each other today’ was not an option. It is a big ask sometimes for 12 and 13 year olds, however with a few tweaks, it will get another run. Did they do everything perfectly? No - of course not. But not everything was their problem either, there are things I need to change too in the lesson delivery and student groupings. But that is the fun part - learning from the medals and the missions. The journey with PBL is just as important as the product – and this product thankfully now has no beetroot covered paper!
This project is shared in Commons – Japanese Project Based Learning Unit Year 7. Hopefully this helps someone else.