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Project-Based Learning


By June 15, 2018June 20th, 2018No Comments

A key characteristic of rigorous project-based learning is the exhibition. In the Educurious world, this may not be a live event but could be that students post their projects on a social network with the world as their audience. In this blog post by Alec Patton, a humanities teacher at High Tech High in Chula Vista in California, Alec offers great advice if you are planning to have a live audience for your student exhibitions.

As you think about the exhibition think about the interest and attention of the audience. What will drive their interest? How will they be engaged?

Students should take the lead in the setup and design. Think about students in your class who may not be the usual movers and shakers or the strongest readers and writers. This could be a great role for students you don’t always hear a lot from.

An exhibition is an exercise in making your learning both interesting and comprehensible to non-experts. Your students are now the experts (Learning Design Principle #1) in the topics they’ve chosen to work on in their project work. How will they describe their work to “non-specialists” so it is understandable?

Let us know when your exhibitions are occurring or where they are posted. We’d love to be there if we can or let others know how to find it if it is posted.

Literacy Exhibitions

It can be hard to keep up with the newest creative ways to publish and exhibit student work in our digital era (see this link to 44 potential web and mobile apps for classroom use). But whether you’re assigning digital comic books, a narrated slideshow, or a podcast, many presentations still rely on good old-fashioned reading and writing to develop and convey student learning. Whether the writing is behind the scenes (as in a podcast) or central to the presentation (as in a digital book), a product for exhibition usually involves a critical opportunity to support literacy skills.

One ELA teacher’s report in The Atlantic testifies to the amplification of reading skills through in-class listening to podcasts — and it’s equally true that the creation of podcasts strongly draws on writing and speaking skills.

The key to successfully supporting disciplinary literacy, then, is scaffolding student thinking and writing long before the final product is produced. Taking a podcast as an example, here’s how you can develop that kind of support:

Develop students’ awareness of the critical features in podcasts (or another medium) by pairing listening and reading of the podcast transcript — this supports strong reading skills while underscoring the written preparation behind the podcast.

Scaffold student research by orienting them to the structure and goal of their intended style of podcast. Co-develop a graphic organizer to match the features students identify to guide their research.

Support the script writing process by taking a similar approach: Ask students to determine the structure of podcasts and design a tool to guide their drafting process.

Provide opportunities for feedback at the research and drafting stages. Public products benefit greatly from peer and teacher feedback on working drafts that is designed to make final products really shine. Because students can anticipate an audience far beyond the classroom when they post podcasts, feedback is more likely to be integrated into the product. The ability to listen closely to their own words read aloud also provides important student feedback as well.

More Exhibitions Ideas

Keeping a fresh rotation of exhibition ideas can be daunting, so here are a few novel spins on exhibitions in addition to some classics:

  1. Find an Existing Expo: If you don’t have to spend time organizing panel members, finding a location, or determining metrics for success, by all means, you should have students present at an existing STEM or Science expo, if possible.
  2. Gather a Panel: For a one-shot exhibition day, tap your network to gather experts from many fields to hear your students pitch an idea, make a proposal, share their learning, or demonstrate their products for feedback.
  3. Library Science: Set up exhibits in the library at school or in your community. These can be standing or interactive exhibitions, or more like an old-fashioned science fair.
  4. Go Online: Publish students’ work on a website, blog, on a school YouTube channel, or in an already curated existing website for student work. You can have students add information to a database for citizen science, or see if other organizations would publish your students’ work.
  5. Utilize Youngsters: Find a partner classroom of younger students within your district. These students could be your students’ audience or participants for demonstration, children’s book read-alouds, or other exhibitions. Both classrooms will benefit!
  6. Include Seniors: Senior centers and assisted living facilities are fantastic ways to have students connect with senior citizens, keep seniors connected to others in the community, and provide an audience for the students’ exhibitions.
  7. Pass it on to Experts & Decision-makers: Perhaps students have learned ground-breaking information or have a proposal or plan for dealing with an issue. You may decide to send students’ work to policymakers, community leaders, and experts in the field to effect change or ask for a response.
  8. Connect with Colleges: Colleges may have the ability to showcase student work or serve as an audience or panel members for students.
  9. Launch during Lunch: Want to stay on campus? Lunchtime exhibitions of student work may be an option for students who want to demonstrate a product, share information, or showcase videos or other materials.
  10. Maybe a Museum?: Local museums may have the bandwidth or space to feature student work in a special collection or exhibition. Many children’s museums or science museums have a space that could highlight work from your students. Additionally, they could provide museum staff to serve as audience or panel members.

For more ideas on what projects could be exhibited and how, check out this GHS Innovation Lab website.