In my last post, I talked about the 5 things I had learned about PBL and the one thing I didn't talk about was time. I left time off the list because I knew it was something I couldn't just discuss in a sentence.
As a teacher librarian, when I approach someone about trying PBL in their classroom, their number one concern is time. More often that not I hear something along the lines of: "I'd love to try PBL, but I don't have the time. I have to get through the curriculum." And although I understand the sentiment, I sigh because when a PBL project is done well, many thing occur:
1. The students are engaged in their learning. They are genuinely interested in what they are learning and how to present their learning.
2. The students are thinking about the curriculum. Not just thinking, but thinking critically. I'm constantly hearing questions that show the students are delving deeper into the content.
3. The students are taking ownership of their learning. Because they are engaged and thinking about the curriculum, they want to understand and present their best work.
And it's this third point that I battle teachers who are doing PBL over. I find that many teachers panic at the end of the PBL project and start thinking like my non-PBL teachers; they worry about the curriculum and how much time the PBL project has already taken. Most teachers tend to rush their students to finish but it's essential that students are given time to put their final product together. The students are proud of their work and they want to showcase it at its best.
I'm in the middle of planning a science 8 project on water with two outstanding colleagues. When we drafted the project out, we realized that it was getting quite big and was going to take a lot of class time. And that's when we looked back at the learning outcomes and realized how much was actually being covered by this one project and it put everyone at ease. That said though, we need to keep in mind that throughout the project the students will be collaborating, critically thinking, organizing and presenting. As much as we as teachers love our curriculum, we need to remember that the curriculum is just the vehicle we use to teach students skills.