Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'm Learning about Project Based Learning

Over the years, I've dedicated myself to thinking and re-thinking about my teaching practices. My professional development has focused on assessment, accountability, homework, classroom management and public education policy. I've spent time on lesson planning too, but I want to dedicate more time and effort on how and why learning should be more about projects and performances collected in portfolios.

I'm reading Methods that Matter by Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar and it's off to a wonderful start. 

The first chapter provides a great list of what school should be less about and what school should be more about.


  • whole-class-directed instruction, e.g., lecturing
  • student passivity: sitting, listening, receiving and absorbing information
  • prizing and rewarding silence in the classroom
  • classroom time devoted to fill-in-the-blank worksheets, dittos, workbooks, and other "seatwork"
  • student time spend reading textbooks and basal readers
  • attempt by teachers to thinly "cover" large amounts of material in every subject area
  • rote memorization of facts and details
  • stress on competition and grades in school
  • tracking or leveling students into "ability groups"
  • use of pull-out special programs
  • use of and reliance on standardized tests


  • experiential, inductive, hands-on learning
  • active learning in the classroom, with all the attendant noise and movement of students doing, talking and collaborating
  • emphasis on higher-order thinking: learning a field's key concepts and principles
  • deep study of fewer topics, so that students internalize the fields way of inquiry
  • time devoted to reading whole, original, real books and nonfiction materials
  • responsibility transferred to students for their work: goal setting, record keeping, monitoring, evaluation
  • choice for students; picking their own books, writing topics, team partners, research projects
  • enacting and modeling of the principles of democracy in school
  • attention to varying cognitive and effective styles of individual students
  • cooperative, collaborative activity; developing the classroom as an interdependent community
  • heterogeneously grouped classrooms where individual needs are met through individualized activities, not segregation of bodies
  • delivery of special help to students in regular classrooms
  • varied and cooperative roles for teachers, parents and administrators
  • reliance upon teachers' descriptive evaluation of student growth, including qualitative/anecdotal observations
You can find a summary and study guide for the book here

I hope to use this book to fine-tune my classroom's use of projects and performances collected in portfolios.

1 comment:

  1. Reading about project based learning has me really excited about becoming a teacher. I am majoring in Secondary Education and English and I cannot wait to apply these techniques to make high school English classes a little more exciting. Speaking from personal experience, classes focused on lectures and worksheets lead to trash-can learning and students who are unable to use what they have "learned" in the real world. I really love the idea of incorporating team work and peer review into writing workshops and allowing students the freedom to chose books and topics. I feel like the major problem in teaching English is getting students engaged with the material. Hands-on and active learning could completely change the classroom environment.
    Twitter: @jessicajgarris


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