Today I spoke at my first staff meeting in the role of learning consultant. The topic? Project-based learning. I gave an overview of PBL using the projects I’ve done with my classes. Showing everything from our Holocaust museum, to our anti-slavery social media campaign, to the smaller Biology projects we’ve created. One of the things I love about PBL is the flexibility and versatility of it.
Many of the teachers seemed really interested in the idea. One teacher put up her hand and said, “I love the projects you’ve done with your students. But how do you do this in a grade one class? Until someone can show me, I can’t wrap my head it.”
My answer? No idea. I’m not going to pretend I know how to do PBL with 25 six year-olds. The truth is I can’t fathom it. I might actually lose my mind, and I absolutely agree with her statement. I think many teachers feel the same way. The curriculum in my province is written for inquiry, yet very few teachers are using inquiry in their classrooms. Why? I honestly think they don’t know how to. We’ve told them, not shown them.
This is part of the reason I blog as I do. I think it’s great to cast the vision about important ideas such as students needing tech-embedded, 21st century, inquiry classrooms, but I’m a show me, not tell me sorta person. I always think, “okay, but what does that look like.” To me, that’s the hard part. I think there are a lot of teachers out there who are the same.
At the staff meeting today, I had an idea. What if I create a multi-level, inquiry/PBL resource for teachers in my division that shows & teaches how to create & implement inquiry/PBL lessons & units in their classrooms — including video footage & interviews from classrooms, lessons & unit ideas, and assessment strategies? What if it’s split into K-3, 4-6, 7-9 & 10-12?
The truth is, I want to learn how to do inquiry in an early elementary classroom. Why? Because I think it will make me a better inquiry teacher. I think how inquiry is taught in the grade one classroom would be the foundation of all inquiry learning, regardless of grade. Often there are things I take for granted because my students are older — and sometimes projects fall apart because of it. But in a grade 1 classroom you can’t do that — or there will be chaos.
The more I think about it, great inquiry teachers likely have the same foundational habits I admit that younger learners need more scaffolding, but so do high school students who are just learning the inquiry process. As students grow & learn the scaffolding is slowly removed.
I am a huge advocate of PBL because of the changes I’ve seen it create in my own students. And I’ve always thought, “If only kids could learn to do this sooner.” I think the way to make that happen is to help equip teachers by showing, not telling. And I might need to learn a lot more about inquiry in order to facilitate the process.
The great thing is my school division’s learning department is built on collaboration. Consultants in our division work on learning teams, and cross-collaborate with others based on expertise. I know there are other consultants who are interested in this same topic. Maybe we can create this together. I’d love for us to wade into the mess of PBL with our teachers. What if the culmination of this venture is an immersive PD experience for teachers to experience PBL as learners, not as teachers?
One week into my role as a learning consultant I have more questions than answers, but my motto has become “Show. Don’t tell.”
picture courtesy of flickr cc: Jem