Reading PBL Starter Kit has definitely clarified what project based learning really means. I was assuming that it would be defined more as “hands-on-learning” but instead a project done properly requires reading, writing, oral presentations, critical thinking, and group discussions. Based on the examples that were provided in the beginning of the book I understand how project based learning can be an interesting way for students to learn the skills that they need. I particularly liked the product comparison project that was created for a science class. This project provided useful consumer information for students’ futures while teaching them a template for lab experiments.
Although I can see the benefit of implementing such projects, I am questioning how often I would be able to use project based learning in my own classroom. Currently, my school operates around a strict curriculum. For example, all students in ninth grade English must complete four common writing and speaking assignments per semester. Teachers do not have choice in the prompts for these assignments and must teach the skills associated with the assignments to prepare students for the assignments. In addition, our curriculum operates around essential questions. All ninth grade students explore the same essential question each quarter, though the literature they read may vary slightly. As I was reading the spotlight projects I was wondering how I would have the time to incorporate PBL and still have enough time to cover the required curriculum for each quarter. Additionally, as I reflected on my own teaching practices while reading PBL Starter Kit I realized that I have incorporated similar assignments on a smaller scale in my classroom.
One book I teach is Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie. One of the main ideas this book touches upon is censorship, and I have had my students complete a censorship project that was similar to the spotlight project outlined in the book. In the past my students each selected a banned book, but because of time constraints they researched the reasons the book is controversial instead of reading the entire text. They informally shared their findings with their peers, and then had to write an individual argument about the book they chose. Based on their findings they had to argue that the book should be banned or should not be banned and needed to use sufficient evidence. This assignment was mostly completed outside of class and individually while we worked on required (common) assignments and text in class.
I think that many teachers, including myself, would love to have more freedom with curriculum and assignments, such as implementing PBL. However, sometimes it seems that there is not enough time to get everything done!