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Foolishness under the guise of PBL

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We've been discussing in the other topics in Winton Woods School Talk about how project-based learning can be a powerful tool, as long as it is implemented correctly and in appropriate circumstances.  Some have expressed concern that while it can be great thing, you can't just slap the name "project-based learning" on something and think that will bring the same results as real project-based learning - in fact, it can actually cause more harm than good to do that.

Well, my high-schooler just told me today about such an example that concerns me, because it seems the administrators at WW don't really get what PBL is about and are making mandates that run counter to what PBL stands for.  My daughter just told me that instead of learning music in band this week, the administration has decided that they must do a project, so now the band students must spend today, tomorrow and Monday working on a project to present what the lyrics mean for three pop songs with a common theme.  Seriously?  Instead of doing REAL project-based learning - the hands-on experience of learning to play an instrument, learning to make beautiful music, learning to work with their fellow band members to produce a greater product that any of them could produce individually, they are going to waste time researching pop song lyrics and getting up and talking in front of the class about what pop song lyrics mean? 

All the band directors at WW are excellent, so I feel confident that this is not something they wanted to do, but something that was hoisted on them by an administrator who wanted to say that the band is now doing project-based learning.  (which, in case the administration hasn't noticed, is what band was doing all along - by definition, band class itself is one big project-based-learning experience.)

I feel that this is a case of foolishness occurring so that someone higher up can say that PBL is being done in all classes, including band.  In my opinion, this is doing a disservice to our band students, and to our outstanding band directors, and is making Winton Woods look like it is run by fools.  It's band class, for goodness sake - let them play their instruments!  What better example can you find in terms of PBL than the band students learning to work together, hands-on, to produce beautiful music as a team!

 

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

There is a difference between "group project" and "Project based learning".

I know that the teaching staff is being directed to attend training right after school ends this year... with some teachers being further directed to attend training in Florida this summer. From my discussions with a number of staff members,  there is a lot of anxiety about this rollout and.. even with training.  they forsee a lot of issues.   They are correct to feel this way under any circumstances.  But I also know (from my experience) that questions are often confused with whining or insurrection. 

In the first year of AGS, we had a TON of issues.. but we also had about 100 students that were highly motivated and WANTED to be there.  We had a number of students want to drop out and a few actually did. The people running around bragging about AGS were not the ones that gave up a lot of (unpaid) time to suffer through it.   From what teachers are telling me, there is a real fear that the brass is grossly underestimating the pain that folks will go through next year.

PBL is a process and not just something you "do".  It requires a great deal of support  and knowledge from the management... all the management.. not just Dr. Holden or Mr. Jones (who is at Primary North).  This includes your "academic coaches" your "deans" and anybody else in a management role.  Special Ed, for instance, must be well versed and not just pop into a classroom and say "Oh.. what do we have here???"   The current principal needs to know this process backwards and forwards.  It's like being the pastor of a church.  If the pastor can't recite John 3:16 from memory.. you might have an issue, right?  The BOARD needs to understand this process backwards and forwards as well.  Say what you will about Dr. Weirs.  He didn't vote for AGS and was an initial critic.. but.. the man did spend A LOT of time learning the process and eventually became a huge backer of what we did.  This is what annoys me about the current board President.  She is running for another office as opposed to dedicating her attention to getting this off the ground properly. PEOPLE NOTICE THIS KIND OF STUFF!!!   Ironically, her opponent was heavily involved in AGS last year.. serving as a mentor for one of the government projects.

Claiming that you understand the "demographic"  and how to promote culture and claiming that you understand the pedagogy behind PBL are two different things. If the management is perceived as being weak in either, PBL has no chance.  None.  I don't say that to be controversial, it is a fact.

This is going to be a critical year for PBL.  You aren't going to sit back and say "Well.. my teachers don't understand this or that".   You can just recite things off a powerpoint in front of an audience. The buck must stop with the board and the Supt... not a first year teacher.

Gambier, folks have GOT to pay attention to what is going on at all levels.  I suspect (and I really hope I'm wrong), but I suspect that this whole process is going to be very rough.. and the blame will fall on the teaching staff.. as opposed to the leadership level... and the musical chairs will continue to play as teachers continue to leave.  I don't need to tell you the implications for academic achievement.

Edited by equalizer

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Posted · Report post

Gambier Gal,

I know and I share your concerns.  I have all along.

The Mad Botanist

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Posted · Report post

EQ,

I have said it and I will say it again,  WHEN IS THE BOARD GOING TO GET INVOLVED DIRECTLY AND HOLD THE ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTABLE?  I share your concerns about the Board President being involved in other matters and not dedicating her full time for the office she was elected to serve.  I have voiced my concerns many times in front of the Board.  Alas the ax when it falls will fall on the faculty, and still the Superintendent who now serves for a total (I believe) of 3 years still has not delivered the goods.  I think is about time that the Superintendent owns the failures of the system and lack of involvement and stern supervision with his handpicked administrators.

I repeat PBL is not the MAGIC BULLET that will solve the academic or discipline problems that we have.  The academics need a revision from an outside source since the powers to be do not respond back to valid suggestions.  The Board seems to refuse to hear the people who elected them.  I think that they believe that "the Nile" is just a river. The ones elected previously will be running out of their 4 years...are they planning to run again with this failure on their backs?  So far to the many questions I have asked, the Board has not responded to any of them.  They furiously make notes by hand of on the laptop and yet I am to receive an answer. 

Again, they need to get in touch with their constituency to realize how out of touch they are with the common voter. 

And again I am preaching to the choir!

The Mad Botanist

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I am beginning to agree with a former Board Member who told me that a State takeover of the System may  not be all bad.

It is obvious that the current Board, as a whole, is incapable of dealing with the situation and the current administration appears to have the Board eating out of its hand.

The High school and Middle School, have become an insane asylums and the inmates are in charge.

 

Cicero

Edited by Cicero

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I don't know about this year... but it was pretty clear (to me) that the students really could veto a teacher's authority by pullling out their cell phone and "call mom".  Like I said, it happened to me once.   In most schools, the administration is pretty clear about their role in the whole process.  They are there to support the teachers.  They are the jerks so the teacher can be the hero to the students.  At WW, it might have been reversed

Edited by equalizer

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