Sunday, May 16, 2010

CBL-What is in a Name?

About two or three weeks ago Wes Fryer threw his tweet out: “wonder why Apple insists on using their own term (challenge based) instead of project/inquiry based learning?...”

Since, my third grade girls were finishing up their CBL-Stop Girl Bullying Project, and it has been a completely positive experience for myself and my students. I felt the need to send back a reply to his tweet with this comment:“@wfryer Don't care what it is called, but love it. Finishing up w/ 3rd gr.. Apple makes things clear & kids love the videos.#CBL.”

To be honest, there are times that I find it is difficulty to communicate a complete thought in only one hundred forty characters. Since this interaction on Twitter I have been unable to get that question out my mind. What is in a name? I mean no disrespect, but I feel that question is the wrong question we, as educators, should be asking. A few of the questions we should consider asking are: Is this good education? Is there a better way to teach not just content, but things like higher level thinking skills? Are my students learning strategies that can be transferred to a new situation? Will what we are doing help them become productive members of the society? Will this project provide an opportunity for my students to improve on a multitude of academic standards/benchmarks? Basically, I feel that part of our job as educators is to spend some time asking those questions and reflecting on the programs and projects that we use in our classrooms. With that said, the following are some humble reflections on my experiences.

I have been aware of Inquiry/ Project Based Learning and have used some of the principles for a couple of years now. Through my experiences I found that my students would learn a lot through completing their inquiries or projects, but they never quite understood the process in which the learning takes place. That is until I introduced Challenge Based Learning into my classroom this fall. A woman I work with lives by the motto "Keep it Simple Stupid" and honestly that is exactly what the authors of CBL have done. They have created a simple open-ended framework in which students can understand, follow and monitor themselves during the process. With some of our other projects, I believe students learned things like how to do research, how to collect data and how to create a finished product. However, with the CBL framework being simple enough to be placed in the students' hands they were forced to learn things like why you do research, why you collect data and how to evaluate your process and final product. The conversations my third graders had about the whys of the process were so valuable. It was through those conversations that I learned the most about what had not been going on in my classroom. I took for granted that if the students could collect the data and make a graph that they understood why it was being done.

Finally, an element that is unique and necessary to CBL, is that the project should be based on “real world problem”. With that concept at the forefront, it gives students the motivation and inspiration to fully be involved with the project at hand. In my third graders' case, their project came from a piece of literature we read and more importantly out of the girls’ personal experiences. Due to that fact, the project became a learning experience that involved not just their minds, but their hearts too. About three weeks into the project one of my girls looked at me and said, "You know, Miss Snyder, if we keep taking these little steps we could change the world.” With CBL these students didn’t just learn how they could make a difference in their world they were inspired and empowered to make a difference. What else could we possible ask for from a program, project or framework?

In the end, I suppose the jest of my Tweet had summed my thoughts up nicely, "Don't care what it is called, but love it."

Standards/Benchmarks worked on during The Stop Girl Bullying Project

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