Final Reflection

In many ways the last eight weeks have at times seemed to fly by while at other times they seemed to creep along. EdTech 542 has been a wonderful learning opportunity and I am quite excited to implement the project I have created. I feel I understand much of the theory behind project based learning including the planning, management, assessment and tools necessary to successfully engage students in a project. I have read useful articles, researched deeply on the subject and enjoyed watching the others in this class develop their ideas. As I have yet to attempt a project, I know precious little about how to actually produce an effective project. I realize I am only at the beginning of this process and I look forward to drawing on the theory and methods I learned this semester when trying PBL for the first time.

When I began this semester, I had no knowledge of the complexity and high degree of planning involved in project based learning. Actually, I knew nothing about PBL generally. I thought initially that PBL was more in line with task based learning, which it is in some ways. I understand now that PBL goes much deeper than task based learning by providing relevance, voice and choice and student assessment opportunities.

From what I have learned in this class, I feel I need to share PBL with my colleagues and my students. As I have said before, my students will one day be elementary school teachers themselves. I would like to allow them to experience projects and then give them the tools to create their own. Additionally, I look forward to working with some of my colleagues interested in collaborating on projects at my school.

Please enjoy exploring my final project.

PBL Debrief

As my project comes to an end, it will be crucial to take a step back and carefully and critically evaluate the process, the success, the failures and the outcomes. It is my hope that I will implement this project within the next one to two years. To do this, I will collaborate with a colleague who is interested in my project. Together, we will be able to provide feedback to one another. By working together, using the BEI teacher reflection worksheet and asking for student feedback, we will be able to fine tune this project. Also, since this project will not run for some time, my colleague and I will sit down together and review what I have created. I will look forward to his feedback before we go ahead. 

Within the project site, there are two documents taken from the BEI website that will assist in our assessment process. I feel it will be necessary to use these documents to make appropriate changes and ensure the project meets the goals it is intended to meet.

One of the biggest hurdles in teaching Korean students is the heavily weighted, cultural importance of saving face. Korean students are not asked to evaluate their peers. In many of the writing composition classes I have taught, peer review fails miserably. Students do not want to show the mistakes each other make as this is a direct attack on their ability. It will be necessary to provide examples of quality peer evaluations and build up or scaffold student’s critical thinking skills where peer review is concerned. I believe that due to the invested nature of this project, students will be able to provide relevant feedback because they will all feel like they own what they have accomplished.

Teacher as Facilitator

In project based learning, the role of the teacher is just as important, if not more important than in traditional teaching. Some might say that once the project begins, the teacher can sit back and allow their students to tackle the learning tasks alone. This is far from the truth. If anything, students, left to explore the topic on their own, will need even more guidance from the teacher. This is because the genuine inquiry process of project based learning leads students into tricky areas of the unknown. Even when properly scaffolded, students will require constant input as they come to difficult topics and tasks. The teacher must fluidly move from group to group providing the right level of assistance and making sure each member is contributing effectively and positively.

As I endeavor to facilitate a project based learning environment, I will need to stay organized and quick on my feet. As a facilitator, I will need to recognize that students will be approaching their projects from different angles and I will need to adapt rapidly to each approach. In many ways, I feel project based learning will fit my teaching style well as I already employ many tasked based learning methods. PBL will take this much further but must be well thought out and developed to be successful.

PBL – Assessment

My PBL project on discovering opportunities within the city in which my students live uses key principles of assessment. The driving question for my project, ‘Is your university city a good place to live and study?’ asks my students to evaluate their situation and discover how best they can take advantage of their environment. Therefore, it is relevant to my students and asks them to actively participate in authentic situations with the desired outcome being improved confidence with English. The project provides collaborative activities supported by rubrics that engage the students in enjoyable learning experiences. Assessments also encourage self analysis though learning logs and peer review and teacher feedback. Students understand that their goal of improving English ability is for more than just a final exam which promotes ownership of their language learning.

The rubric I have built for the summative assessment clearly defines all aspects of the project requirements. It sets standards for each component of the project development and allows my students to know exactly what defines a successful presentation. Through this project, I hope my students will come to see their city in a new way. The goal is not simply to complete the project and present what they have found. It is instead to desire to explore and experience the multitude of wonderful opportunities, English or other, that are close at hand.

First Thoughts on PBL

Overview

Nearly everything I have read about PBL this week shows this method of inquiry based learning to be an effective way to engage students. This style of learning has been shown to ready students to gain the skills and attitudes that will enable them to become active learners throughout life. One of the key elements is the role of teach as facilitator. Instead of a top-down instructional method, teachers pose a driving question that pique interests and galvanize students into a collaborative research mission. The information they find undergoes constant evaluation while working to complete open-ended assignments. Another vital aspect of PBL is it involves finding answers to real-world problems. Included in this is the notion that students perform better in terms of research skills, subject knowledge, and writing when the topics are of personal interest and are relevant to their lives. The ability for students to choose how they display their newly gained knowledge provides students a voice unique to themselves. Finally, projects are displayed publically, outside their immediate classmates and teacher which adds additional motivation.

Challenges

As an EFL teacher at an education university in Korea, I’m having trouble visualizing how I can incorporate PBL into my classroom. One of the primary hurdles I face comes from my department heads who are so steeped in traditional style teaching methods, getting the go ahead to pursue this out of the box method will be tough. Additionally, the opportunity for exploring PBL in language learning will require resources that will not come from in class. Therefore, accessing the computer lap or taking field trips or sending students into the community will be necessary. The first of these two may be seen by my superiors as off task or worse, unnecessary. The last may hold the key and is where I will focus my energies for incorporating PBL into my instruction.

Possible Project Idea for EdTech 542

My idea for EdTech 542 comes from our freshmen English class. This is a one semester class taken either in the spring or fall. The project I am imagining will replace two items done in the first half of the semester. In the fourth week, students must do individual presentations on a topic of choice, and in the eighth week they take a midterm speaking exam. We have no ‘standards’ per se, but learned language, increased confidence and fluency and exploring English in an engaging way that excites my students to continue on their own are the core criteria for our language program.

In the first half of the semester, students discuss their hometowns, our campus and Daegu. For my project, I’m thinking of asking my students to create a presentation that explores Daegu. I would leave the project open for the students in terms of how they want to discuss Daegu, but some possible final products could be a digital story, a blog in English that provides reviews on restaurants, places of enjoyment or popular hot spots, or how best to increase English ability and where to find resources whether it be at academy or by engaging th foreign English speaking community. Key to this project is the requirement to actively engage English speakers in some form. This will be left open to the students. Language objectives are past simple/perfect, used to, adverbs of quantity, wish, comparatives and superlative as well as various vocabulary sets and expressions. Assessment may come in the form of presenting their projects to another class, staff or even high school students looking at DNUE as a possible place of study. However, I think the ‘audience’ aspect of this project will be limited due to the current teaching methods and how they play into the perceived importance of this task as well as scheduling issues.