BUILD THE CULTURE

A positive classroom culture creates an inclusive community of learners for PBL

Within a couple of minutes of walking into a school or a classroom, you can tell, define, almost taste the culture that permeates that space. Is it an open, sharing environment? Or is it a rigid, discipline-defined playing field? Is it safe and welcoming, or intimidating and confronting? Does it welcome all voices, or does it make you want to shrink? Is it waiting for instruction and leadership, or is it self-directed with a common purpose? (Sean Slade, 2014)

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GOLD STANDARD PROJECT BASED TEACHING INDICATORS

  • Norms to guide the classroom are co-constructed with and self-monitored by the students

  • Student voice and choice is regularly leveraged and ongoing, including identification of real-world issues and problems students want to address in projects

  • Students usually know what to do with minimal direction from the teacher

  • Students work collaboratively in healthy, high-functioning teams, much like an authentic work environment; the teacher rarely needs to be involved in managing teams

  • Students understand their is no single right answer or preferred way to do the project and that it is ok to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them.

  • The values of critique and revision, persistence, rigorous thinking, and pride in doing high-quality work are shared, and students hold one another accountable to them.

BELIEFS AND VALUES: SHARING WHAT MATTERS

  • Students deserve to know the purpose for what they are learning

  • Address students' social and emotional needs

  • Be authentic in giving students a voice

Youth Organization 2
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SHARED NORMS: CREATING A COMMUNITY OF PROJECT BASED LEARNERS

  • Shared agreements about how classmates and teachers treat one another

  • The goal of creating shared norms is to promote a classroom culture that values what each person bring while establishing common expectations for the group

  • The real value comes from reinforcing norms over time

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: THE RIGHT STUFF MATTERS

  • What subtle messages are there about who 'owns' the space?

  • Are students empowered to use technology during projects or do tech tools stay primarily under teacher control?

  • Putting tools in students' hands promotes student voice and choice

  • A PBL-friendly environment makes supports and scaffolds for student learning visible and accessible:

Project Wall - dynamic space where students post new research questions, use rubrics to assess their learning, and manage their team and individual progress

Sentence Starters - to support and encourage discussion, eg. "I see it another way because..."

Messy Learning - Keep work in progress visible. Provide opportunities to ask questions, make observations and provide formative feedback.

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Kids in Art Class

PROTOCOLS & ROUTINES: HABITS FOR A STUDENT-CENTRED CLASSROOM

Gallery Walk: Schedule a gallery walk at one or more points during a project as part of your formative assessment plan where students give feedback on pre-determined criteria constructed with them.

Thinking Routines: Routines that develop habits of mind such as 'think, pair, share'.

Fishbowl: This is a discussion protocol. A small group inside the fishbowl actively participates while a larger group listens and observe from an outer circle before swapping.

 

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