I am reading the e-book Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your field guide to Real-world projects in the digital age by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss, which I would recommend to anyone who is pursuing a classroom that is based on Project -Based Learning (PBL). On page 52 the authors have a section called Keep Your Students in Mind. In this section the authors discuss point of view from your students. They write:
… imagine the emerging project idea from your students’ point of view: Why should they care?
I have to be honest, thinking about student point of view is something that I really never thought about doing. When I begin to research a topic I generally think it is something they will be interested in. But if I look at their point of view, what I think seems interesting, may not be so interesting to middle schoolers.
What I think is the authors are saying is that you have to go beyond what may be interesting, and begin to focus on how can you make students feel like they are involved in something that is bigger than themselves. When you are designing your projects you have to keep in mind the topic must bring out the curiosity and enthusiasm of students. It’s the activities, experiences, and interactions that will spark the likelihood that students will want to go deeper into the project. I have to be honest that I may not have entirely thought that out when I am designing my projects, but I believe that I will have to from now on. I want my students to not only want to learn the topics we study, but I want them to truly care about what they are learning.
Keeping in all of this mind, I have to tell you that my mind was blown. I look around my classroom, and I see my students learning from the projects that I set in front of them. But do they really care what they are learning? I would have to say at this time I don’t think so. I think, as gifted students they like to learn, and care that what they are putting their time and energy into they get something out of it.
What I have to do to is change my point of view when I am designing my projects. What I do is provide a choice board for my students. They choose what they are interested in. I will need to collect some data on which topics are chosen and which aren’t. Then collect some data on why those topics weren’t chosen. Then change those topics based on what my students may view it as and give it to them again and see what their reaction is.
To me it is important that students learn when they come to my class. I only have my students one a week for 255 minutes a day. I try to do projects with them that cover multiple disciplines, and have complexity and depth. Now, I have to keep in mind that what they care what they are learning.
I see some aspects of this that I think are important about students who care what you are teaching. If students care what they are learning, then:
1. the products you are expecting them to do will have a good quality to them.
2. it will be something they will remember, and use the skills they learned in other places and subjects.
3. they will connect previous learning to new situations.
4. the curiosity and enthusiasm of students have will be enhanced.
What about you? Do you think your students care about your teaching and what they are learning? How does this line of thought change how you structure your classroom, lesson plans, ativities, and projects?