Today was the first day of our three day 2017 Lanier School Academy Institute, a professional learning experience for returning and new to the Lanier cluster teachers. This academy provides teachers of all grade levels and subject areas opportunities to talk about project based learning across the Lanier cluster, to unpack how our cluster thinks about PBL, and to share and brainstorm ways we can craft meaningful and authentic PBL experiences for our students (and ourselves!). I will be joining the faculty of Lanier High this July as an 11th grade English teacher, so I am excited to participate in this three day institute.
This morning we worked in small groups to take an inquiry stance on PBL (project based learning). We began by sharing PBL experiences we had implemented as teachers and discussed insights, successes, and what we might do differently moving forward with PBL. Next, we contemplated and discussed these questions about PBL in our small groups:
- What’s your perspective?
After we brainstormed our list of ideas for each question, our facilitator, Dr. Kyle Jones of Lanier High, asked us to pull out the one idea from our list of ideas for each question. He then asked us to distill the idea to its essence and to write each “essential” big idea that stood out to us as a group (consensus!) on a medium sized sticky note. Each group then shared out their responses for each question; similar responses were “bundled” together by Dr. Jones to be placed in a slice of the perspective walk “pie”.
Once Dr. Jones had placed the responses for the first question in the perspective walk slices, we gathered in large circle around the perspective walk pie. He then asked us to look at the responses and to step inside the slice that resonated most strongly with us. You could not “straddle” a pie with a foot in two slices; you needed to choose one that you connected with the most. Once we had selected a slice, we then turned and talked in our small groups about our ideas and thinking about the response we had selected. Once we engaged in small group talk, we then had an opportunity for three groups to share out to the entire group. We repeated this process for each question, and for each round, Dr. Jones asked for volunteers to share who had not previously shared before though you could also add to the discussion if you had previously volunteered to share.
For our last round, we first considered the question, “What is your perspective?” where we picked a perception about PBL that we found most important to address or challenging. After we discussed this question, Dr. Jones challenged us to think of ways to change that perception, and after small group discussion, we then shared out once more. Approximately 50 teachers participated in the perspective walk, so this is an activity you could do with a large group or combined classes as well as an individual class. During our lunch break, Dr. Jones took each group of responses and hung them on the mobile dry erase board that is our “parking lot” of ideas (more on this tomorrow).
I found this activity to be powerful because I got to hear so many interesting ideas from my fellow teachers, and the small and large group conversations gave me food for thought and pushed my thinking as well as “idea sparks” for the upcoming school year. This is an engaging activity with tremendous synergy that is participatory and builds on the power of crowdsourcing ideas and the social aspect of learning. I cannot wait to try that this activity with my new students this fall!
I hope to do some additional posts about our thinking and other great learning activities we’re engaging in this week in our institute. Kudos to Dr. Jones and all the Lanier cluster teachers for such a provocative and fun morning of thinking and sharing today!