Today’s light reading comes from these three blogs:
- Teaching it Real: Reclaiming Chalk and Talk
- The Confident Teacher: The Power of (Pushy?) Parents
- Filling the Pail: The Value of Project Work
What’s the connection?
Well, I guess after my own experiences of implementing Self-Directed Project Based Learning and trying to work out why it wasn’t successful for everyone, my thoughts closely mirror Greg Ashman’s (Filling the Pail) on this matter.
Those with a disadvantage are even more disadvantaged when it comes to project based learning. Evidence for this comes from the EFF report on PBL:
The trial results did not find that the PBL programme had an impact either on the pupils’ literacy performance (as measured by Progress in English 12 tests), engagement, or attendance. The analysis did find a statistically significant negative impact on students eligible for free school meals (FSM), however no negative impact was found for lower-attaining pupils more generally, which makes it difficult to hypothesise why PBL might negatively impact FSM pupils specifically. This adds to the uncertainty of the finding.
The EFF study was not the best and they conclude themselves their findings here are not totally reliable, but they are supported by PISA findings in 2016.
That said I do love a good project! There is something rewarding about completing a big project. Use of soft-skills can definitely be practiced through group projects, but like Greg, I’ve stopped using the project to teach skills but instead to apply what has already been learnt. Students may determine for themselves that they need to learn additional skills, but the cognitive load should be lighter due to having already acquired understanding of the core skills and knowledge required to complete the project.
My big issue with projects is time. For a subject that only has 50 minutes a week it is often impossible to maintain momentum and enthusiasm in students for a project that runs over multiple weeks (this was definitely a problem with the CiDA coursework projects). Collaboration with other subjects can help. When we used to take the Quest Story that Year 8 Students would write in English and convert it into an eBook (applying Photoshop skills to create book covers and use of styles to generate contents pages from chapter titles) we produced some great projects quickly. The problem would come when students had handwritten stories rather than drafting them in a word-processor. If they had to copy it up, this would be time-consuming and suck the joy from the experience. Who were the student’s most likely to have hand-written their work? Those who don’t have access to laptops or desktop computers at home. The home may have internet, but access is most like through smartphones, which are not the most efficient devices for typing. We may offer access to computers at lunch or dinner, but it takes a strong willed student to resist the temptation of social time with their friends to instead spend time in the computer room typing…
The best projects I’ve done however have been during ‘enrichments weeks’ when during intense periods I’ve been able to work with a group of students to create animations or music videos. It is much harder to recruit students to these activities now though, because enrichment week has now become a time to take the students on trips to theme parks and indoor ski centres.
Alex Quigley’s post about the power of parents is another post that speaks to me and my experiences as both teacher and parent.
My intention this year is to make parents much more aware of what students are doing in lessons and when. I hope this does indeed encourage more involvement from parents and an improvement in attainment.
I have sent students in KS3 home with Knowledge Organisers for the first time. I’ve instructed students to share it with their parents so they know what they are learning about. I’m also giving students strategies to use them which might including getting family members (or friends) to test them.
I also share schemes of learning via the school website (which includes assessment dates) but I’m not convinced these are ever looked at. So maybe I need to let parents know via a direct message. or perhaps a wider school strategy is needed to do this (so 10 subjects aren’t spamming parents every 8 weeks with news of another assessment…).
And the other blog? Well just because…
The featured image is from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt.