Good morning. As our project presentations come to an end today, I’d like to begin by giving one of my students Megan a huge shout out for publicly challenging me to complete this project, resulting in this blog. Thank you, Ms. Megan. I wouldn’t have done it without you. You rock.
Now that I know, I will do better. This sentiment was shared with me by one of my students at the end of third period yesterday. Her sentiment was echoed in chorus as others near her chimed in, expressing they, too, after watching and learning from their peers, had finally begun to see the purpose of the project. The day before, the very same choir had shared during their reflections that their least favorite part of the project was the vague nature of the assignment. But now–after it’s over–they’ve finally begun to see. Alas, clarity.
Of course, I was intentionally sparse with my instruction. After all, my goal was to take the learning away from my direction, handing the keys to my students, putting them in the driver’s seat. I would only be along for the ride. This was their task.
- Choose a topic of genuine interest.
- Pose an authentic or essential question about your topic.
- Research to learn about your topic and find the answer to your question.
- Keep track of your sources and provide a bibliography.
- Create a product that demonstrates some aspect of your learning.
- Present both the process and product of your project to the class.
- Complete a meta-cognitive map each time you sit down to work.
- I will not be a resource, but you may ask clarifying questions.
- You have one month. You will get no class time.
- Your grade will be based on successful completion of all parts of the project. If you finish it–right or wrong–you will get an “A.” I will give you feedback, but the feedback is only for helping you do better next time, my judgment will not affect your grade. We will do this each month till the end of the year. Good luck.
Sparse but simple. Or so I thought. As I shared in an earlier post, this was quite uncomfortable for my kids. They not only asked many clarifying questions but also on more than one occasion voiced their mounting frustration as the project progressed, sometimes with thinly veiled anger at my stubborn persistence to do no more than patiently–okay, sometimes impatiently--remind them of the steps to complete the project. Of course, sadly, they were really just concerned about their grades, which often become a distraction to true learning, and despite my constant assurance that the grade was not important, that they would get an “A,” they leveled their lack of trust at me through doubtful eyes. But that was then.
Now it seems on some level they distrust me less and are eager to get to the next round. And that, the next round, is the key, for the wisdom contained in the notion of “Now that I know, I will do better next time,” vanishes if there is no next time. And that is where we often fall short when it comes to learning. We don’t offer kids enough–sometimes any–next times. And this is where we need to “do different.” This is where I have fully committed to re-do’s, retakes, and rewrites on everything, including major assessments. I believe learning necessitates the opportunity to try again.
With this project, my kids did okay. Some projects were amazing, and some–if I am honest–were disappointing. They weren’t perfect, and they never will be, but they will be better. Because now that they know, they will do better next time.