Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 25- Tuesday November 23: Open Lab Day

Today was a Lab Day for both sections of class. SZB 316 was open and staffed and a number of students came to class to work on their Legacy Cycles or discuss various aspects of their final project or final exam. Other students met in Painter Hall and other informal areas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 24- Thursday November 18: Assessment/Wikipedia/Book Prospectus

Today our TA Sara conducted class while Dr. Petrosino was out of town. She picked up where class left off on Tuesday, talking about assessment in the context of the Legacy Cycle. She began with a larger discussion of assessment and pushed the students to think beyond quizzes and tests as ways to evaluate what students know. Sara reviewed with the students formative and summative assessment, and emphasized the importance of using the data collected by assessments in different ways (rather than simply inputting a grade). She also talked about the importance of a variety of pre-assessments in determining what students have learned (versus measuring what they know).

In order to get students to think creatively about types of assessment, she presented them with some of the challenges they may face as teachers. The class thought about how to assess students with limited English proficiency, various learning difficulties, and differing learning styles. Students had some difficulty at first thinking beyond the framework of a test, but they were able to ultimately able to consider a variety of assessment tasks. Sara used the book, “Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers” to augment the discussion with examples such as minute papers, analytic memos, imagined dialogues and muddiest point.

Sara then switched to talking about the final exam, which is not going to be a traditional exam. Instead, the afternoon section will divide the task of creating a Wikipedia page for project-based instruction that reflects what they have learned this semester and integrates readings and resources that have been integral to their understanding of the topic. Sara asked the class to offer suggestions as to what major sections should be, and the class generated the following list:

PBI Theory

A literature review of the different schools of thought of PBI, e.g. Barron, Krajcik and others (perhaps mention Buck, but stick to more primary literature). This part should mention the key characteristics of projects, driving questions, etc.

PBI History/Pedagogical Foundations

Covers the pedagogical background of inquiry and project-based instruction- Knowing and Learning type concepts of Piaget, Vygotsky, etc and how they are reflected in PBI.

Big P vs. Little p.

Defines the characteristics of Big P and little p projects, and how an observer could determine what type of project they are seeing. Should reference the theory of PBI as to what the characteristics of big P should be.

PBI vs. other methods.

This section differentiates between many of the different terms and types of teaching that are often associated with PBI, including (but not limited to) Problem-based, case-based, challenge-based, inquiry-based, legacy cycles, etc.

Examples of PBI in the literature

Covers PBI studies in schools and classrooms (not limited to the examples we have covered in class), what they have found, what PBI looks like.

Implementations of PBI

Describes how PBI is taught and implemented at UTeach and in different schools (not just New Tech!!!!).

Criticisms and Controversy

Examines the critiques and responses to PBI. Should not be limited solely to the Kirshner critique that we covered in class, but find more critiques and responses that accurately cover this issue.


This section will a) compile the bibliography section from the other sections, b) survey the available books/materials about PBI and give a short annotation of each, c) make a “see also” list of resources.


This group will be responsible for the linking to other articles, pictures/multimedia, creating the initial summary, and synthesizing and editing the work of other groups.

More information about this “Wikifinal” will be forthcoming to students.

The morning section will do a book prospectus for PBI based on an actual book prospectus Dr. Petrosino was recently offered (see below).

For Tuesday, students should begin a rapid prototype of their Legacy Cycle. At this point, they have more than enough guidance to move forward and begin to upload materials onto the website in order to get started with the project.

Pearson Teacher PD Prospectus Guidelines

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 23- Tuesday November 16: Legacy Cycle

Today Dr. Petrosino walked the students through a guide to the Legacy Cycle that he created He stressed to the students the importance of contextualizing the content knowledge in the cycle, and gave the Jasper problem and the circumference of the Earth problem as examples. Each of these problems told a story, which helps students to categorize the knowledge, organize it, and retrieve it later. Students who learn from this type of problem are more likely to apply the content in novel situations.

For each step of the Legacy Cycle, Dr. Petrosino’s guide had a definition, a practical explanation, and hints for getting it done.

For the Look Ahead and Reflect Back step, he brought up as an example the AAAS Atlas of Science Literacy (link: http://www.project2061.org/publications/atlas/default.htm). This book is filled with visual domain maps that show interrelated concepts in science, measurement and engineering that may help to stimulate ideas and connections in the Legacy Cycle.

The challenge step of the Legacy Cycle should pose a complex goal for students; interesting challenges engage students in a process of inquiry that requires them to apply the desired concepts beyond simple manipulation. It is similar to a driving question or anchor, and has the same characteristics: worthwhile, feasible, contextualized, meaningful, and open-ended. Dr. Petrosino suggested that students abandon the ideas of right and wrong and look at how knowledge develops over time. He also reminded them that they must have a lot of things in mind to design a good legacy cycle, and stressed that the Legacy Cycle is not simply “taking 5E and putting in a circle”

For the purposes of this class, the challenge will be a 3-5 minute video. It needs to go beyond simply downloading a youtube video or setting a powerpoint to music. Students should use www.edb.utexas.edu/anchorvideo/howto.php to get guidance in making this challenge video.

The class then viewed the Golden Statuette video as an example of a good challenge video that models tool use, problem solving, and a narrative.

The Generate Ideas step allows students to explore their initial thoughts and ideas. Dr. Petrosino encouraged students to think of this as formative assessment, rather than brainstorming. Having students put forth whatever is on their mind is not productive; instead, this should be scaffolded and kept content specific. The class then viewed the Mission to Mars video as an example of effective, content specific stimulation of ideas.

The Gather Multiple Perspectives step gives students the opportunity to listen to experts in the field describe their own hypotheses and ideas about the same problem. It is very important that this comes AFTER students give their own ideas. Things need to progress from the bottom up, valuing the children’s initial ideas and giving them an opportunity to express themselves.

The Research and Revise step allows students to test their own hypothesis, which is the core of the cycle.

For Thursday, students should have a vague idea for each step of the Legacy Cycle laid out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 22- Thursday November 11: Software Lecture on Legacy Cycle

Today in class students began thinking about the Legacy Cycle final project by getting an introduction to the technology they will need to use. When the Legacy Cycle began, there was no user-friendly interface and a teacher would need to have knowledge of programming in order to put materials out on the internet. Five years ago as part of a Biomedical Engineering grant, Dr. Petrosino began working with the Learning Technology Center (LTC) at UT to create an interface that would allow teachers to upload their materials in a way that is user-friendly for other teachers and students to use.

David Kim from the LTC came to class today to introduce our students to the Legacy Cycle site (http://www.edb.utexas.edu/visionawards/petrosino/) and the various features and options it affords them. Mr. Kim walked our students through creating an account, logging in, the various editing tools, adding images, flash animations, and media. He also pointed them to the help portion of the Web site and gave students his contact information should they need technical support while creating their cycles. Dr. Petrosino stressed to the students that this tool is always undergoing revisions and updates, and they should make suggestions if they have an idea for improvement.

Dr. Petrosino reminded students that simply knowing how to use the interface does not guarantee a good Legacy Cycle; a good product is the result of lots of thought. In thinking about a high school student as the ultimate user of this product, PBI students need to think about language, design, materials and activities. Cycles written for different age groups have a different feel to them for a reason. This Legacy Cycle website is not intended to be a 100% online environment, just a tool that would be used in a classroom environment, and additional materials may be needed to supplement the online element.

Creating a Legacy Cycle differs in a couple important ways from the outlines of a meter stick project that students created a few weeks ago in class. First, in the meter stick activity it was sufficient to simply state that there would be a quiz, while in the Legacy Cycle that quiz needs to be created and included in the final product. If there is a video, it needs to be created. Students are expected to collect the multiple perspectives required by the Legacy Cycle and represent them in their final product (students should be mindful that perspectives doesn’t have to mean expertise). The second difference is that students should push themselves to be more creative and represent their personalities and skills in their lesson plans. Creating these Legacy Cycles should promote personal reflection and be fun, rather than an arduous task.

Dr. Petrosino used a randomizer to order the names of students in the class, and in this order students were allowed to select their topic for the Legacy Cycle. They were able to choose from the meter stick activity, the circumference of the earth activity, model rockets, or their field lesson plans. Students may work alone or collaborate with another class member.

To create a legacy cycle, students will need to balance the tension between engaging activities and the standards. In keeping with the backward design ideas of Wiggins and McTighe, the activities must be driven by the big idea. Dr. Petrosino went through the steps of the Legacy Cycle again with the students:

Look Ahead and Reflect Back, which allows students to see where they are going and to reflect back on where they have been; for example, students are able to see how the concepts underlying any given challenge map into the taxonomy of knowledge for solid biomechanics.

Generate Ideas allows students to explore, within a group setting, their initial thoughts and ideas about the challenge at hand.

Gather Multiple Perspectives gives students the opportunity to listen to experts in the field describe their own hypotheses and ideas about the same problem.

Research and Revise allows students to test their own hypotheses concerning a challenge; for example, through advanced computer-based simulations, students are able to vary parameters of a model and study the effects that these changes have on model performance.

Test Your Mettle provides a means of formative assessment, allowing students to reflect on what they have learned thus far, and to identify any weaknesses or misconceptions they still may have.

Go Public encourages students to share their thoughts and ideas with their peers and provides a summative assessment.

He encouraged students to be creative with the research and revision step, and to think about a variety of ways that data can be collected or analyzed in the classroom. He also reminded them that tests and quizzes are not the only forms of assessment and urged students to think outside the box as far as assessment is concerned.

Lastly, he stressed to the students that a project is more than a sequence of lesson plans. Students tend to fall back on the 5E lesson plan model when they are uncertain, and in this class they need to push themselves to use backward design and create an arc that goes throughout the unit.

Picture: David Kim is the programmer for the Vision Awards, providing expertise in .NET, PHP, Java/JSP/JSF, Flex/Flash and Actionscript. David holds a Master of Science in Information Studies and a Master's degree in Computational Linguistics. His interests include Information Retrieval and Information Architecture. He is the developer of several Natural Language Processing applications. David joined the Learning Technology Center in 2005. Since then his work has included back-end programming, front-end design, and database engineering.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 21- Tuesday November 9: Debrief on Field Experience/Legacy Cycle/Homestretch

Our TA, Sara Hawkins began class today by asking each student to share a positive comment about the field experience with the class. There were several recurring themes in these comments, notably about the culture of the PBI classroom and openness of the interactions with students. They felt that the students wanted to learn, had a high level of trust in each other and in the teachers, and were open to talking to new people and sharing their ideas.

The PBI students cited several times that they felt the interactions they had with students during this experience were much more authentic and engaging than they have experienced during prior field experiences. Sara pushed them to think about how they might establish this kind of culture and comfort in their own classrooms, and students knew that it had to be established from day one but acknowledged that it was difficult for them to verbalize what specific strategies they might use to achieve it, especially among all of the other concerns of a new teacher.

Dr. Petrosino congratulated the students on how well they represented the UTeach program with their professionalism and positive attitudes. Though there was variance in how lessons were set up and carried out, all groups were attempting content that was high level and sufficiently thought-provoking for students. He also reminded students that all the UTeach field experience time pales in comparison to how much class time they will log during student teaching, and to just imagine how much they will learn in that semester. He mentioned a couple of trends that were noticed by observers. First, students are still working on developing their “teaching persona” and many have yet to develop that bigger, more theatrical personality that is usually seen in the classroom. For now, students’ regular selves and teacher selves are still very similar, though observers noted that they saw students trying out new things. Second, observers were happy to note that students are learning to respond to a change in plans and make decisions on the fly. Dr P. was happy to see students step outside their comfort zone to authentically respond in a situation.

He then reminded students that a couple of things are still yet to do in the class. First, the final exam, about which more details will be given soon; second, the final class project to create a Legacy Cycle.

This is the first time Dr. Petrosino has done the Legacy Cycle project with undergraduates, and he is eager to see what the students will create. There is a web interface set up for students to be able to upload documents and movies and create a space for their cycles (www.edb.utexas.edu/visionawards/petrosino), and a representative from the Learning Technology Center (LTC) will be coming to class on Thursday to brief students on using this tool.

The Legacy Cycle is meant to embody all of the activities and theory that we have covered in class so far. In keeping with the class goal of minimal drama, the topics for the cycle will be restricted to activities we have spent substantial class time preparing: Meter stick activity, model rockets, circumference of the earth, or the lessons taught in the field. Students will be able to choose whether they want to work individually or in pairs.

The Legacy cycles should cover approximately a week of instruction, though longer is an option. In the end, we will have 8-10 Legacy cycles created by the class that will be available for the public to use. Dr. P encouraged the students to use their creativity and think about these things in a deliberate way, and predicted that they will place more restrictions on themselves than he would.

Students were encouraged to look over the Legacy Cycle readings from earlier in the semester and check out the website prior to class on Thursday.

Schwartz et al

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 20- Thursday November 4-6: Summary of Field Experiences at Manor and Blanton/McKinney Falls

Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week (November 4-6), PBI students conducted their field experience lessons at Manor New Tech High school. PBI students taught in Algebra I, Geometry, Biology or Introduction to Engineering Design classes comprised primarily of 9th graders who have only been learning in the project-based environment since school began in August.

PBI students developed a 3-day unit that would address a central question or big idea. They had two days to instruct in the classroom, and then on Saturday they led a field trip for the students to McKinney Falls State Park and the Blanton Art Museum. PBI students received general topics from the Manor New Tech Teachers, but were free to design their own lesson and field experience for the students. Biology lessons were to focus on photosynthesis and cellular processes and use McKinney Falls as their field site, while math lessons addressed linear functions and incorporated the Blanton Art Museum. Engineering lessons centered on the Manor New Tech school garden and asked how tessellations and 3-D drawing could help to design an addition. PBI students received a great deal of feedback from MNTH teachers throughout the lesson planning process to ensure a high-quality lesson.

While the UTeach students were in the classroom and in the field, their lessons were observed by MNTH teachers, PBI professors, PBI TAs, and UTeach master teachers. Each group received at least one (but up to 3) feedback forms per class that gave them feedback on professionalism, preparation, lesson planning, interactions with students, logistics, and connection with the big picture. Students received this feedback soon after teaching in order to be able to reflect and revise before the next day. Overall, observations were positive and encouraging, but many observers noticed that the main point for improvement was connecting lesson activities back to the driving question and the big picture.

Manor New Tech teachers reported a high level of satisfaction with the lessons that were taught this semester, and noted that the PBI students were professional and eager to learn. They look forward to welcoming the spring semester students into their classes as well.

After the field experience, students were asked to reflect on three questions. Below are the questions and sample responses from PBI students to each one.

1. Reflect on the differences between what you planned to do, and what actually happened.

“We had also planned to state our objectives at the beginning of the class, but this did not happen either on day one or day two. We had the objective fairly clear in our mind but we did not make sure to transmit it to the students. We decided it would be better to introduce the objective late better than never so we presented it to the students at McKinney Falls.”

“Students were quick to plan, and discuss, and design, but once it got to actually doing things by hand, many of them slowed down and some even got stuck. I figured if students could use all this software that they’d be quick at “old school” methods but I was wrong.”

“the night before we decided to add an additional activity. I was glad that we did because if we had not, the class would have ended way early with very little left to discuss. The activity also fell into the big idea a lot more which made me very happy. Day three we planned to spend a lot more time at Old Baldy and really see if the students could discuss the big idea. All of them knew the big idea and answered our questions with ease. This sort of surprised me, but also made me proud.”

2. Reflect on your interactions with the students as you enacted your unit.

“…students drastically increased in their comfortability [sic] in talking to us and asking questions by day three. On day one it seemed slightly difficult at times to get anyone to answer a question unless you called them by name and put them on the spot, but by the field experience some of the same shy students were pointing things out and asking questions.”

“The interactions with the students was probably the best experience for me in this 3 day project. Of course there were some students that were kind of shy but most of the students were not. This made me real comfortable whenever I was around them. I was able to laugh and make jokes with the students, even the shy ones, while maintaining control of the classroom. On the field trip I felt that students were comfortable talking to me about anything but still have respect for me and answer questions whenever I asked them about photosynthesis.”

“Students were comfortable with each other, and worked well in groups. As I circulated amongst the groups I was surprised to see how most of the students stayed on track by themselves. This self discipline and responsibility was very comforting and made teaching a lesson at manor a very enjoyable experience.”

“At the CO2/BTB station the students were able to do something which held their interest a lot better than the other stations which were more demonstration based. On day two we opened up with a review of the day before. We kind of fell into the just let a few students answer. This makes me wish we would have just separated into four groups since we had four teachers. Then we could better assess their understanding. However, when we did our day two activity most of the students were really into the competition aspect. When we asked questions they didn't really want to answer at first because they were trying to win!”

3. Please reflect of at least 3 things that surprised you during any aspect of your experience (positively or negatively).

“One of the things that surprised me and was really happy when it happened was when a student picked up a huge log at McKinney falls and when asked to put it down he responded, "But it's full of carbon." We were ecstatic when these words came out of his mouth. This was a student who in day one and two had some behavior issues and was at times unresponsive to us, but when it came to getting out in the field, this student was into the lesson and ready to apply what he had learned in class.”

“…Another great thing that I saw in the classroom was the bond that students had with each other and with their teachers. If a student gave an incorrect answer or was confused by an idea, another student would try to explain it to them or work together to figure out a solution. The relationship that students had with each other resembled a family relationship. Everyone felt very comfortable speaking in front of others even if what they had to say was not right.”

“The Manor students would stop at each painting on their sheet and hold very mature and interesting conversations on both the subject matter and mathematical content of the piece. Afterwards the students sat in a group and held an in-depth discussion about the art they had seen and what they had enjoyed and why. None of the students seemed too shy or embarrassed to talk about art. Afterwards they enthusiastically wanted to see more paintings downstairs.”

Picture: Students working on a UTeach student created unit on photosynthesis at Manor New Tech (simulating how sunlight contributes to photosynthesis and the bonds in molecules).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 19- Tuesday November 2: Lab/Development Day

Today, students spent a majority of the period working on the final aspects of their 3 Day Manor Unit. Students worked in both their large groups (content areas) and also their smaller, individual groups (aligned with specific periods at Manor New Tech High School). This was the last class meeting before the main field component of the course which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, November 4 to Saturday, November 6. One group is working on photosynthesis, another group is working on linear functions, and another group is working on engineering concepts.

Engineering (email from a Manor teacher to our students): "The dimensions for the Garden are 35 ft x 35 ft. The statistics teacher that sponsors the garden club said that he was open to suggestions on how to re-arrange the planter boxes that are in the garden, so that's what the kids will be tesselating. Right now, the students are designing trellises that are 4 ft wide by 6 ft tall...so I would recommend that the shapes you have the kids use for the planter boxes be 4 ft, maybe a little more or less, that depends on you & on the math to make it work..."

Photosynthesis: Photosynthesis is among the most widely taught of all concepts in biology. Why, then, do many people have difficulty grasping the central idea of photosynthesis-that most of the substance of plants comes from the air? Clips of Harvard and MIT graduates and middle school students, showing their misconceptions and struggles with ideas related to photosynthesis.

Linear Functions: