I just finished re-reading Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana’s book Make Just One Change. If you haven’t been to their Right Question Institute, you should. This pass through the book reminded me once more how critical it is for students to engage in generating their own questions if we are going to authentically strive toward a student-centered model of learning. It also helped me reflect on my own teaching practices as well.
I was pleased to see Paul Curtis, a founding teacher at New Technology High, recently share the image below on Twitter. You can follow Paul on Twitter @paulcurtis.
— Paul Curtis (@paulscurtis) February 9, 2016
I love how simply the graphic captures such a complex process that project based learning is. The image also does a nice job of showing the types of thinking students proceed through as a project moves forward. The path of a project based learning unit is a reflection of the Question Formulation Technique. The two are inextricably intertwined.
When I started my teaching career, my style was very teacher-centered. I planned the what and the how of teaching. Students could choose from the buffet of learning I set before them. When I first began embracing project based learning back in 2006, that changed dramatically. I’ve always been one to jump into new things with both feet first.
Over the years I’ve come to learn that one of the unspoken roles a teacher must play during a PBL unit is “moderator.” It’s hard to put the breaks on student creativity and energy when the excitement level is high. It takes a LOT of discipline to know when to say when.
As I reflect on my own teaching practices, I realize I easily get swept up in the excitement of my students. It’s hard to fight those “Squirrel!” moments when we learn something cool and want to dig deeper on a tangential line of questioning. I realize I have a strength and passion for divergent thinking. I’ve always been an imaginer, a builder, a wandering wonderer. That’s probably why I’ve always had a strong affinity with students who have driven their previous teachers crazy with their frenetic thinking. I need to redouble my focus on developing my own convergent thinking. The QFT has helped me come to understand this about myself.
I’ve got years of teaching experience. I’ve got dozens of inspiring colleagues throughout the country who make me strive to be a better teacher. I’ve read and am reading dozens of books on pedagogy to refine my craft. All of these things are helping me grow and fill in the pieces that are missing in my practice.
This year more than ever, the one thing I realize I’m missing is this: a team of teachers with whom I can teach and plan and reflect.
I am a “unicorn” at my site. I’m the only PBL teacher in my school. And I’m becoming painfully aware that I need support and guidance and the ability to be around others like me who want to use a teaching style that is independent of scripted lessons and the marginalia found in teacher’s manuals. I need a culture of teachers who can help me blend what I’ve known with what I aspire to know and do with my students.