Thursday, November 30, 2017

PBL's and Constructive Feedback

Liberty kindergarten students presented their
books to Miss Sparkles at the Bismarck Public Library.
Excited dancing from foot to foot, little arms pulling their moms, dads and aunties into the library,
I witnessed the birth of young writers recently.  I attended a special evening Project Based Learning (PBL) celebration held at the Bismarck Public Library.   After interviewing members of the community, the kindergarten students wrote books about community helpers and presented their writing to the library. 

Young authors' eyes glowed as they learned their classroom book would have a barcode and be checked out by the community!  Their book would be featured in the LOCAL AUTHORS section of the library! Gasps and claps filled the room.

In the process of making their books, the students began to learn about constructive feedback.

How can we help students learn to give
and receive constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback focuses on facts and specific examples that help the students clearly understand strengths and areas to grow.  It lets the other person know that everyone is on the same side.   Its main purpose is to improve the quality of the product.   It offers specific advice rather than general comments.  To be successful, it demands a growth mindset.  As each PBL adventure begins, we always ask, "What do we want the students to know, think and do?"  The challenges we encounter:  How do we meet the standards?  How do we best help the kids attain quality work?   How do we push the students to grow?  How do we encourage them to think deeply and critically?  How do we help them really think and not just spit out facts!  One of the most vital elements to a successful PBL is embedding time to allow students to give and receive feedback on their learning throughout the project.

2nd and 5th Graders were 
"Feedback Friends"
for 2nd-grade Habitat PBL.
High quality student work is a hallmark of Gold Standard PBL, and such quality is attained through thoughtful critique and revision. Students should be taught how to give and receive constructive peer feedback that will improve project processes and products, guided by rubrics, models, and formal feedback/critique protocols. 
from Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning: A Proven Approach to Rigorous Classroom Instruction, by John Larmer, John Mergendoller, Suzie Boss

How can we foster constructive feedback throughout PBL's?  (Not just at the end)

4th Graders collaborated to show
story sequence and plot using Lego.
Arguably, the most important piece of the puzzle, that must be in place before deep learning and growth can occur, is the development of a strong growth mindset culture.  Students must feel safe to fail, ask questions, be frustrated, and try new things.  Once this strong culture is established, only then will kids be able to provide and receive constructive feedback.

Five years ago, when we began the PBL journey, I learned very quickly that students need to be taught how to give constructive feedback.  I vividly remember working with a class of third graders on google slide presentations.   One group was working for about five minutes before they were at each other's throats.  They were defensive, attacking and ANGRY!  "HE CHANGED MY SLIDE!"  I  pulled the kids away from their computers, took a few deep breaths and they began the process of learning how to collaborate and listen to others' ideas.   By the end of the hour, I had goosebumps watching them listen to each other, seeing them take pride in working collaboratively, witnessing them become part of a creative group.  That same group that was ready to draw blood, were working cohesively, effectively and respectfully.   "I'm done typing.   Do you want to add anything I forgot?"  It was beautiful.

What are some tools/strategies for students to
use for self-reflection?  Peer reflection?

3rd Graders presented "Then and Now"
projects at the Heritage Center
Last month, the 3rd graders traveled back to the time of covered wagons, long dresses, and sod houses.   The driving question challenged the kids to decide how they could preserve the past for the future.   Students knew they would be presenting at the ND Heritage Center and took it very seriously.  Throughout the PBL, through constructive feedback check in's (formal and informal), students reflected on how they were meeting their learning targets.  As they worked on their small group projects, students often were naturally asking classmates for feedback.
During presentations at the heritage center, one museum curator joked with a transportation group, "I'd hate to get a flat tire then!"  To which the students replied, "Actually, rubber wasn't invented yet, but they did get broken wheels..."  Several minutes later, the museum curator walked away, extremely impressed with the depth of their knowledge!

What are some successes/challenges
with constructive feedback?

According to Charity Parsons, a BIE blogger, "In Gold Standard Project Based Learning, teachers - as lesson designers and project managers - have a unique opportunity to craft experiences which encourage a growth mindset."   
This leads me to wonder how teachers can also grow through constructive feedback.   At a staff meeting, we recently engaged in a schoolwide "tuning" protocol.   We divided into groups so there was one representative from each grade at a table.  Specialists, PE and Music also spread out so each group had a mix of expertise.  Staff then began the process of sharing their grade level's current PBL driving question, the products, process and the authentic audience.   After a set time, the other grade levels and specialists gave constructive feedback to each project.  At the end, grade levels returned to share the feedback.  All classroom teachers and specialists left with a better understanding of what other grades were doing, ideas of how to support that learning,  while simultaneously getting feedback for their own PBL. 

How can we provide opportunities for teachers to receive constructive feedback throughout PBL projects?

Twitter Questions: 

Q1:  How can we help students learn to give and receive constructive feedback?

Q2:  How can we foster continual constructive feedback during PBL's? (Not just at the end)

Q3:  What are some tools/strategies for students to use for self-reflection?   Peer reflection?

Q4:  What are some successes/challengers with constructive feedback?

Q5:  How can we provide opportunities for teachers to receive constructive feedback throughout PBL projects?

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