Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday February 26- Blanton Museum "Geogebra"

Today a little over a dozen students from both sections participated in a 2 hour tour of the Blanton Museum on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. The basic idea is the use of art to indicate geometric and algebraic concepts. Matt Chalker, a TA for the course, took the lead in the instructional aspect of today activities and did a wonderful job. Not all PBI students participated- only those working with teachers at Manor New Tech whose participating teachers plan to use Geogebra.

FROM THE SYLLABUS: Field Experience. A major portion of this course is the field experience. UTeach students will meet with and observe classroom teachers and “teach” approximately four times in high school classrooms. UTeach students will be required to complete an initial observation of at least two different classes at Manor New Tech High School (MNTH) by February 11. During the first observation they will select and rank the classrooms in which they wish to complete their PBI teaching experience. They will then meet, plan and coordinate as a team the implementation of an authentic project with the mentor teacher and the other UTeach students teaching in that classroom. The expectation is that the UTeach students will plan and implement the launch (beginning), scaffolding workshops (lessons) which must include pre and post assessments, and the final presentations of high school student projects. This teaching experience will occur during a 1-3 week time frame between March 1 and April 3. We will support and expect that UTeach students working with Sara Hawkins (Biology) will incorporate and conduct a field trip with the MNTH students to McKinney Falls State Park and those working with Tara Craig and Chris Fancher (Geogebra – a combined Geometry/Algebra course) will incorporate and conduct a field trip to the Blanton Museum of Art. These field trips will occur on the same day and will be scheduled for a Saturday, either in the middle or at the end of the project, with a tentative date for this trip of March 27, 2010. The expectation is that there will be a culminating class after the field trip during which MNTH students who participated in the field trip may present their findings to their fellow classmates.

Class Meeting 10: Wed Feb 24, 2010 Driving Questions

Ms. Ekberg started class by asking student the purpose behind creating a driving question. Students discussed that the driving questions serve as a starting point for their final projects. Ms. Ekberg then continued on with an activity from Monday, where students did a gallery walk of the driving questions posted on the wall, and formed groups of 2-3 based on questions they wanted continue pursuing and taking down the driving question posters they wanted to eliminate.

After students formed groups, Ms. Ekberg passes out a worksheet entitled, “Prompts for developing well-constructed driving questions”, which comes from p. 87 of the Krajcik, Cerniak, and Berger (2003) book, Teaching Science in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms: A Project-based Approach. Students are to used this framework to finalize one driving questions on a fresh sheet of poster paper, and then post it on the wall for feedback from the rest of the class.

Students then walk around the room reading the new driving questions, adding comments with post-its and making sure to be constructive with their thoughts about the driving questions, utilizing the Krajcik, Cerniak, and Berger PBL framework. When students are done reading through their critique, they work on refining their question. Then, they designate a recorder to post their new question onto the course BlackBoard discussion board.

Students then select a common weekly meeting time, and upload a group contract outlining each group member’s responsibilities to each other, and attaching it to their BlackBoard posting of the driving question. Students then agree to meet at time

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 25th Letter to PBI Group

The following is a short note I sent to members of the group meeting to rethink Project Based Instruction over the next few semesters. -Dr. Petrosino

Hi All,
I want to be sure we take some time in our weekly meetings to also continue the work of re-thining PBI. The work we did before the semester began was helpful and moved us along. However, I do not want to lose sight of the fact that in my opinion, it's work still not completed. As we are in the middle of the semester, it's easy to get into a "do" mode- at least with me.

Topics I would like to talk about in the coming weeks:

1) relationship between PBI and Apprentice Teaching
2) 5E model of curriculum and possible other models
3) introduction of new technology/cognitive tools for PBI
4) Anchors-launch video issues
5) frameworks for PBI unit design

Maybe we'll try to dedicate 1/2 hr a meeting to the above topics. I'll send out a loose agenda. If you have any other ideas/topics, please let me know.

Sorry about not being able to attend yesterday's meeting. I got caught up in a vortex.

Cheers, -Tony

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Class Meeting 9: Mon Feb 22, 2010 Coordinating Field Experiences/Driving Questions

Ms. Ekberg ran most of the class today, connecting and specifically clarifying the various parts of the PBI Field-based Experience to students.

When class started, students came into classroom, sitting in specific groups according to the subject/teacher they will be working with at Manor New Tech High. Ms. Ekberg had printed out calendars for March and April for all students to work together on when they can schedule being at MNTH for 4 days: Launch, End, and 2 days in between.

First, Ms. Ekberg reminds students in the Geogebra and Biology groups that they will be going on a field trip with the teachers and students at MNTH on March 27th, which is a Saturday. They will also be going on an orientation trip this weekend coming to scope out the Blanton Museum and McKinney Falls State Park, and all other PBI students are welcome to come along as well.

Then, Ms. Ekberg describes specifically what the field-based experience entails: a field trip for the Geogebra and Biology students, followed by 4 days of actual classroom teaching. Students then work together in their groups to put together the schedule for when they can be at MNTH for the 4-days they need to be there. Each group is organized into even smaller sub-groups for the different periods that each teacher teaches. Students must find another member from this sub-group to be their partner during the field-based experience (this partner teacher can also be from the other PBI class section). Ms. Ekberg then went around from group to group to answer questions about logistics, why they should to partner with, when they can go out to MNTH, and when they will plan on actually teaching.

When students have finished working out their schedule, they all fill out and sign a group contract to commit to the days and key roles for their group. Most importantly, each group designates a liaison that will be in charge of communicating with their MNTH teacher

Finally, the class ends with a Driving Question gallery walk. Students write one or two of their Driving Questions on poster paper, post them on the wall, then walk around giving input to each other’s driving questions.

Picture: Taken near the Eschelon building crash site on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Class Meeting 8: Wed Feb 17, 2010 Role Playing PBI BoE Meeting

Today, we started with a role-play activity in which students had to play the roles of Pro-PBI parents, Anti-PBI parents, Board of Education members, and Principals of a school district in an open Board of Education meeting debating whether or not to implement a Project Based Learning curriculum for the entire high school.

The Case: The Cranford city schools are experiencing a “flat line” on recent state mandated tests as well as growing dissatisfaction from an increasing number of parents about the type of direct instruction their children are receiving in the town’s only high school. The principal and vice principal are advocating for the introduction of project based instruction into the high school but this will take at least 2 years to fully adopt and will require extensive professional development of the existing staff (a majority of which were not fortunate to take PBI while they were pre-service teachers) and cost approximately $2000 per teacher per year. The public is split on this decision. On the one hand, everyone recognizes the flat lining of the test scores and there is absolutely no debate about that issue. Half of the public is siding with the principal and have done a great deal of homework on the issue. They have consulted with experts and they have their own opinion. Another group feels very strongly that PBI might be ill-advised and send the scores downward (this would hurt real estate values- the town is already under water).

ROLES: The Principal, Vice-Principal, Pro-PBI Parents, Anti-PBI Parents, Board of Education Members

Board of Education Responsibilities: The District is governed by a Board of Education consisting of seven members. The Board's power and duties include the authority to adopt, enforce, and monitor all policies for the management and governance of the District's schools. Board of Education members are guardians of the public trust. Through the policies they make, Board members are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education. The Board serves as the advocate for educational excellence for the community's youth and puts those interests first. The policies Board of Educations make dictate the standards and philosphies by which schools are run and the criteria used to judge whether they are being run well.

The key responsibilities of the Board of Education are to:

Provide educational leadership to the school community it serves.

Create and maintain a vision and a mission for the District.

Hire and evaluate the Superintendent to whom is delegated all administrative responsibility and authority.

Establishes clear and measurable goals and evaluate results.

Adopt and evaluate policies.

Approve and adopt the School District's annual budget.

Involve the community in the life of the District.

Maintain open and honest communication.

The Schedule for Class Today

2:00-2:15pm Introduction of the Case

2:15-2:45pm Preparation for each role, working in groups (School administration, Pro-PBI Parents, Anti-PBI Parents, Board of Education members).

2:45-2:50pm Break

2:50-3:00pm Take positions in the class. Board of Education in the front. School Administration to the Board’s right. Classroom divided in half.

3:00-3:10pm School Administration’s opening remarks

Questions from the Board of Education

3:10-3:25pm Public Discussion (Q&A with Board and Administrators)

3:25-3:30pm Closing remarks by Board President.

Class Narrative:

First, students broke into their role-play group to discuss their roles and strategies for 30 minutes.

Then, it was time to enact the school board meeting. The following are the minutes of the meeting:

2:45 PM Started with statements from the Principal Yoon, Vice Principal Jimenez, and Vice Principal Skaggs. All principals supported a PBI-based curriculum, emphasizing that teacher support is paramount for student learning. And they are willing to take pay cuts to support this.

2:55 PM The floor opens up for the Board of Education Trustees to ask questions to the administrators, honing in on the issue of money and asking where it might come from?

VP Skaggs says that the technology will be implemented and paid for slowly over time, in which Board President Clapsaddle asks if students at the beginning of the switch to PBI will be at a disadvantage since they will not have the necessary technology.

Board member Banacka asks how long this it will take to see changes, and what they plan on doing to check in.

VP Skaggs mentions holding teachers accountable with check-ins.

Board member Christopherson asks for evidence that this works.

VP Jimenez shares the Hmelo-Silver et al. article. VP Skaggs says that they don’t have 100% evidence that this works, but the responsibility is there to make sure that students are excelling, not just barely passing.

Trustee Johnson asks what the administration will do if this doesn’t work in 2 years.

VP Skaggs answers that they have no plan, but will meet and plan when that happens.

Trustee Christopherson asks for alternative curriculum.

VP Skaggs answers that PBI is the best option.

Trustee Twining asks what will happen to students who are already doing fine. What will happen to them?

VP Skaggs answers that if students are excelling now with a direct teaching based curriculum will excel with PBI.

3:05 The meeting opens up for comment from the public.

Parent Kang asks how long this “PBI-thing” will take. Doesn’t want his child to be a guinea-pig in an experimental


VP Jimenez answers that this will take 2 years.

Parent Wu asks if PBI and Direct teach are mutually exclusive, or if they can have a balance of both.

VP Christopherson answers that there will be a balance of both, even though they will be moving towards PBI.

VP Yoon answers that the change will be gradual.

Parent Evan states that for 2-years, to run an experimental program, when things are working fine.

VP Jimenez answers that this thinking will block any change or programs to implement.

Board President Clapsaddle answers that PBL has been proven to work within the medical profession.

Parent High states research that only 50% of medical schools in this country have adopted a PBL framework, and that many studies do NOT show test scores improving.

VP Skaggs answers that it’s not just about test scores improving, but also about knowledge improving.

VP Christopherson agrees that research has shown that PBL doesn’t work, pulling out the Kirschner et al. article. He also brings up the fact that medical studies show that PBL actually hurts residency acceptances rates, which could be akin to college acceptance rates.

Board President Clapsaddle says that comparing our students to medical students is not correct, we want to instill the same engagement and motivation in our students that medical students usually have.

Parent Phillips says that PBI will engage students and get them more excited to actually attend school.

Parent Emerson expresses concern that this program doesn’t have a definitive timeline, and will be an irresponsible use of resources. Students are doing fine, so why change things. Program sounds like it works, but doesn’t feel that it will work in our school.

VP Jimenez says that they don’t expect to do away with Direct Instruction, will not be a total shift, but Direct Instruction is still a part of PBI.

Professor Petrosino asks about Cognitive Load, won’t PBI overload our students?

Trustees Banacka and Board President Clapsaddle answers that scaffolding will help support and guide students within PBI structure in order to reduce Cognitive Load.

Trustee Banacka asks parent Emerson, “I know you’re concerned about your child, what about your grandchild?”

Emerson answers back, “Yes. I applaud the program. But I can’t worry about the future if I’m worried about the present.”

Parent Wu shares that her daughter does well in school but is not excited about school. Hopes that PBI will help her daughter finally become excited about school.

Parent Colasanti reads a quote from the Kirschner et al. article about cognitive load, students have trouble learning when overloaded.

Board President answers back with Hmelo-Silver’s article that Kirschner’s quote is not really about PBL.

Parent High specifically asks administrators how much money they will be willing to take, will it be enough among three of them? And won’t funding be cut if TAKS scores go down. And, which criteria was used to choose PBI?

VP Jimenez answers that Formative Assessment is a part of PBI and will ensure a form of internal check-in of students.

Professor Delgado shares that he does projects also, by building volcanoes and kids love it.

Professor Petrosino shares that his students love launching rockets and smile all the time.

VP Skaggs answers that PBL is more than just doing a project, it involves driving questions, etc.

Parent Tutuianu expresses concern about ability to get into college if his scores are low. Her concern is while her son enjoys learning, will the projects help with college acceptance? (Implies how will PBI help on their SAT scores?)

VP Skaggs answers that it’s more than just knowledge. That will be a part of the PBL curriculum, so student will learn all content through PBL.

Professor Petrosino then ends the role-play activity, saying they will follow up with it on Monday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dr. Sally Ride talk on Campus Feb 18

Dr. Sally Ride, America's first woman in Space and now Professor of Space Science at the University of California at San Diego, will give a talk Thursday, February 18, 2010, at 4 pm in the Avaya Auditorium (A.C.E.S.) on the topic of science education – “ Keeping Girls Interested in Science." According to a National Science Foundation Report, women represent 46% of the workforce but hold only 25% of the jobs in science, engineering and technology. Dr. Ride is the founder of Sally Ride Science, a non-profit organization focused on supporting and sustaining students' (especially girls aged 10-12) natural interests in science and technology. Come early for refreshments and visit with members of Women in Science student organizations at 3:30 pm outside the Avaya Auditorium.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Class Meeting 7: Mon Feb 15, 2010

Today’s class started with a student survey covering how students feel about PBI within the context of their other UTeach coursework, their feelings about the workload of PBI course, and how they plan on situating their own understanding of a Project-Based Learning framework within their own teaching practice. The survey can be found here:

Then, Professor Petrosino selected discussion leaders, and had 3 to 4 students group around each leader to discuss the Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark’s Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching (2006). Each group delved deeply into the article talking about the views they posted on the Discussion Board. The prompt from the Discussion Board was:

“On one side of this argument are those advocating the hypothesis that people learn best in an unguided or minimally guided environment, generally defined as one in which learners, rather than being presented with essential information, must discover or construct essential information for themselves (e.g., Bruner, 1961; Papert, 1980; Steffe & Gale, 1995). On the other side are those suggesting that novice learners should be provided with direct instructional guidance on the concepts and procedures required by a particular discipline and should not be left to discover those procedures by themselves.

1) From the coursework you have taken so far in UTeach, please explain which side of this debate do you feel UTeach stands on? Please give specific justifications and reference class readings, activities, discussions to justify your answer.

2) Where do you fall on in this debate? Again, please provide some detailed articulation. How long would I like this to be? Spend 45 minutes on each question. That should suffice.”

After this group discussion, Professor Petrosino gave a mini-lecture about the tensions between inquiry and direct-within that teachers might find themselves within as they enter the classroom. Then, Professor Petrosino ended the class by having each discussion group share out about what they discussed. Each group added to a whole group discussion about their opinions and experiences with the nature of minimal guidance and the nature of inquiry with secondary education.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Class Meeting 6: Wed Feb 10, 2010

Today’s class started with Professor Petrosino passing out a handout that listed student portfolio info session dates for portfolios, while he and Ms. Ekberg briefly discussed what portfolios are and when the students should start building them. Then, Professor Petrosino discussed the course readings, reminding students to follow the syllabus as a guide for what readings to do, and not rely solely on the Discussion Board assignments on BlackBoard as an impetus to start reading.

Professor Petrosino then gave a lecture based upon his article with Richard Lehrer and Leona Schauble (2003) on teaching data analysis concepts of variability spread to 4th-grade students. He explained how students wrestled with the variance in trying to measure the height of a flag-pole, thereby leading to a construction of spread and variability, as well as a deeper understanding of measures of central tendency. The presentation also included video news footage covering this project in Madison, Wisconsin, with the news anchors continually situating themselves as unable to comprehend the “deep” mathematical concepts the 4th-grade students were learning. Professor Petrosino then talked about how this finished product might seem perfect within the article and the video news footage, but in fact, he encountered many struggles when actually doing this in a real classroom, such as the fact that the project took 3-weeks to implement, or that the class reverted to traditional teaching when researchers were not present.

Students in the class then broke into discussion groups to talk about whether this sort of project would actually be something they feel they could implement in a real classroom. After this small group discussion, Professor Petrsoino opened up a whole-group discussion about the students fears in pulling off a project like this, such as issues of classroom management and student respect. Professor Petrosino brought up the fact that about young teachers generally have tendencies to feel the need to control all aspects of the classroom, and only learn to give more autonomy to students over time. He then ended the class by warning students to be careful about making up excuse and letting their own inhibitions or lack of confidence stop them from developing challenging pedagogy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Class Meeting 5: Mon Feb 8, 2010

Today’s class got off to a little bit of a late start because we met in Painter hall rather than the Sanchez building. Also, class was led today by Ms. Ekberg, while Professor Petrosino was out of town.We started class off today by taking a quick UT Engineering survey for 5 minutes:, Ms. Ekberg started an activity where students broke up by content area to deeply look at the Project 2061’s criteria for effective curriculum materials. 

They can be found here: Math: 

Each student looked deeply on 2 criteria and discussed them in their groups. Then, Ms. Ekberg had the class jigsaw so that each group had at least one member who had looked deeply into each category, from 1 to 6. Students then spent time in these groups looking at various example textbooks from Texas, using their categories to critique the textbooks, and also to engage in discussion of whether or not they felt the textbook would meet the Project 2061 criteria.Then, Ms. Ekberg distributed a handout taken from the PBL Handbook by The Buck Institute, which situated various criteria to take into account when formulating driving questions. Within their groups, students then discussed and critiqued the driving questions based upon the TEKS that they had worked on for homework. Ms. Ekberg told students that they would be sharing the results from this discussion in class on Wednesday.Finally, Ms. Ekberg ended class with a short discussion about how to create their driving questions, that they should cover a 2-week to 4-week time period, and that the list of standards that they help students develop mastery in should be focused.

Class Meeting 4: Wednesday February 3, 2010

Dr. Petrosino opened class by asking feedback from students who have already done their observations at Manor New Tech. Then, he starts a PowerPoint lecture that delved deeply into theoretical perspectives on Project Based Learning. It starts with how Jean Piaget’s stage theory model can lead to deficit perspective when viewing students. Professor Petrosino then introduces the model rockets projects he worked on during his graduate studies at Vanderbilt. He showed video evidence of how the projects revealed that a ‘hands-on’ activity didn’t necessarily lead to any actual learning. Then, he showed how, by delving into a design project in which students had to compare model rocket designs, students were able to deeply articulate their thoughts in scientific thinking more than a year after the project had concluded. Professor Petrosino then showed artifacts of students using tools, collecting data, and asking questions; these projects helped students repeatedly reflect and revise their thinking, leading to students really understanding what they were doing, as opposed to a “do only” model of project based learning. Project-based learning in of itself can then be seen from an equity angle, with evidence showing that students who struggled academically because of circumstances outside of school still able to contribute deep and meaningful scientific insight when working on the new, design-based model rocket projects. The big question that PBL opens up is: what kinds of students get the access to play with rockets? Professor Petrosino then summed up his philosophy for PBL teaching, which involves not just caring for students, but caring enough to actually teach them. Student do not need our  sympathy or care; what they do need is rigor and scaffolds that builds real learning. For the last half-hour of class, Ms. Ekberg opens a discussion connecting Standards (TEKS) to the students’ driving questions within their field experience project. Ms. Ekberg briefly showed students how to find school district’s IPG’s, as well as how to  fill in the TEKS for the appropriate topic that the students would be teaching. Students will finish this for homework and then explore how to use this to build driving questions on Monday.