Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is 'Easy' the Answer?

In the Sept. 19, 2007, issue of Education Week, the article "No Easy Project" suggests that project-based learning is an uphill battle in the continuing era of standardized testing. To be sure, many of the teachers and administrators we've interviewed admit that the project approach raises challenges. But once they introduce real-world projects to their students, they invariably see the benefits: students who recognize the value of what they are doing; students who push themselves, and their team members; students who will remember the project and what they learned long after they leave the classroom. It's not as neatly summarized as a test score, but isn't that kind of result what your students deserve?


TSmith said...

Project based learning has been the easy and the complicated answer to many of the challenges in education for a long time - I began doing projects as a main way of teaching with my 3rd graders in Texas back in 1995. The infamous TAAS standardized test was just beginning to materialize as a thwarting force in Texas schools. Why projects? Because there are many learning node points in a project which means that many differing ability/differing interest-level kids can "attach" to those nodes and learning can occur without a one-size-fits-all mentality. Not to mention the educational side affects of higher order thinking, problem solving, connecting, etc, etc..

Today - blogs, wikis, web cams and free video services blend easily with Internet, multi-school or multi-classroom, or classroom to classroom projects. Assessment? It's a different animal in this scenario, a rubric, a story, a skit, a slideshow, and on and on.

Terry Smith -

Suzie Boss said...

Terry--You've hit on a key idea in describing how projects help students attach to these "learning nodes." Definitely a variety of entry points when they begin a project. But what has helped you stay with PBL despite the "thwarting force" of standardized testing?

TSmith said...

Hi Suzie - traditional teaching modes are not invigorating to me or to my students, so the choice to keep playing and inventing and sampling what the kids are getting out of the projects keeps me going. All the while - we do the basics: reading comprehension, writing, problem solving, knowing the world, and science. Lots of conversations, sharing ideas, mistakes, and socializing goes on. So a teacher must be invigorated by what he or she is doing - the job is way too exhausting to become a slave to politics and test drilling - I could not keep on teaching if I stopped connecting with my own creativity.