In order to find ideas for project and problem based learning, teachers must first consider what makes a project effective. Effective projects are tightly aligned to the 6As of project design and allow students to participate meaningfully in class.
High Quality Projects:
- are authentic,
- connect students to adults,
- are academically rigorous,
- ask students to apply their learning,
- ask students to participate in active exploration and
- provide a clear way for teachers to assess student understanding.
Consider using the 6 A's of Quality Project Design to determine if the assessment is of a high quality.
As part of determining if the project idea is a good one, perhaps consider how it can live within a deeper learning classroom. Does it situate itself well in the conditions of a deeper learning classroom? It is critical to consider how the project or problem supports student understanding and achievement in meeting rigorous academic standards. At NTN, we believe that for deeper learning to result in “outcomes that matter” for each learner the learning must be authentic, active, relational, responsive, and complex. The Conditions for Deeper Learning:
- Authentic:Learners are suggesting and making decisions about learning tasks that are immediately applicable and relevant to their lived experience.
- Active: Learners are engaged in active learning by doing, with a built-in reflection/revision cycle.
- Relational: The learning environment welcomes a variety of perspectives and encourages risk taking, and fosters safe, constructive, and supportive collaboration
- Responsive: All learner needs inform the design of supports in both individual and group contexts and across all types of knowing (thinking, seeing, feeling, doing).
- Complex: Learners are provided an opportunity to struggle productively with complex-thinking and problem-solving experiences that are just above their independent level of capability.
Feedback from Colleagues:
Before implementing the project, it is helpful to get peer feedback on your project plan. Use a Critique protocol such as, "Praise, Question and Suggestion" from the Learner-Centered Practices Card Set to help focus the conversation. During the Critique Feedback process, be sure to take notes on the feedback provided by the group and to allow time for your own reflection – what new insights did you gain? What might you revise? Take a moment to pause and reflect and ask for feedback from colleagues before launching your project. Revise your project as needed.
New Tech Learning Outcomes:
Finally, a quality project will scaffold and support ways for students to reach a deeper understanding of the New Tech Learning Outcomes (NTLOs). Through collaboration with teachers, university academics, and the business community, and informed by research, NTN has identified learning outcomes that are aimed at fully preparing them for college and career success. These “outcomes that matter” include:
- Knowledge & Thinking: the ability to reason, problem-solve, develop sound arguments or decisions, and create new ideas by using appropriate sources and applying the knowledge and skills of a discipline.
- Oral Communication: the ability to effectively communicate knowledge and thinking, and engage in clear and thoughtful dialogue through group conversations and presentations.
- Written Communication: the ability to effectively communicate knowledge and thinking through writing by organizing and structuring ideas and using discipline appropriate language and conventions.
- Collaboration: an individual and group’s ability to contribute to group tasks.
- Agency: a combination of academic mindsets and the ability to take ownership over one’s learning.
Once you design a quality project, you are taking a step toward disrupting opportunity gaps. With high quality projects you have the opportunity to meet the needs of each learner, “each” matters because this is more than just making deeper learning experiences available for all learners, but also demanding that each learner has the resources they need to succeed in deeper learning environments. This is choosing equity rather than equality, and by committing to quality projects in a quality environment you demonstrate your belief that each learner deserves an opportunity to learn.