Sunday, February 26, 2012

Project Based Learning and the PYP

Over the past week or so I've thought a lot about Project Based Learning (PBL) as a way of having students focus on the core concepts and central ideas of a Unit of Inquiry.  The PYP is a curriculum framework, therefore it's up to the teachers to meet together in collaborative planning sessions and decide what the important things are that students should know and understand after studying the unit.  This is very different from the traditional curriculum taught in many countries based on national content standards.  In the ISTE book Reinventing Project-Based Learning by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss the difference between a project-based and a traditional curriculum are explained:
When you teach from published curriculum, judgments about what is important have been made for you.  This can be an efficient system, but students learn no more than what the textbook publisher imagined for them.  The results are predictable and, often, generic.  Published curriculum and content standards dive straightaway into a sequence of learning objectives.  In textbooks the material is broken into digestible bits.  Synthesis for understanding important, overarching "big ideas" is left to the masterful teacher and very insightful learner.  Projects on the other hand are highly contextual .... designed for students by their teachers  ...  Good projects connect directly to the students' frames of reference, interests and experiences. Teachers who use the project approach might also use textbooks.  But instead of being the foundation of a course, the textbook becomes a reference book rich with illustrations and supplying information written at the reading and conceptual level of students.
There are a lot of links between PBL and the PYP and this week I read a tweet from Cristina Milos (@sureallyno) that I think sums it up in a nutshell:
The main difference between the PBL approach and PYP is the focus- not on the product,but on the process. A lot of conceptual thinking, too.
Just as PBL needs to be rigorous, When teachers meet for their weekly planning meetings they constantly discuss the rigor of the programme.  The Written Curriculum of the PYP makes sure that each unit of inquiry has to be:
At these collaborative planning meetings I'm also very conscious of the need to discuss how the units will be developing 21st century skills.  Skills are already included as one of the five essential elements of the PYP, and are further defined by the 5 sets of transdisciplinary skills (thinking, social, communication, self-management and research).  The new document from the IBO on the role of ICT in the PYP also defines strands that students should be developing in each unit of inquiry:  investigate, organize, communicate, collaborate, create and emphasizes the importance of becoming responsible digital citizens.  From my point of view there are many Web 2.0 tools that can be used to transform the learning in both PBL and the PYP units of inquiry.

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