The Biggest Loser Challenge: My PBL journey Volume 2

So, it’s been a few weeks since I started my Project Based Learning task investigating the question “How can an individual avoid becoming a biggest loser contestant?”. You can read about the task here. To be honest, the task so far hasn’t been quite what I expected. I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe I thought the students would be so enthused that they’d be really keen to get stuck in to the research, but the initial planning and research has been tough work.

There were a few raised eyebrows when I announced that I’d put the students into groups but they seem to be working ok, I’m not sure that’s the problem. Maybe I needed to give more scaffolding of the steps students needed to complete each lesson, although I thought it was pretty clear. Maybe they need greater direction on what information to include but I don’t really want them to be spoon fed from me. Is it ok to still lecture the students and walk them through what they need to know if the idea is for them to choose their pathway through the task?

We’ve been using Edmodo for the delivery of information and for the students to share with me what they’ve learned each lesson. At the start of each lesson, I’ve allowed 5 minutes or so for students to review what they learned the previous lesson and to plan what they need to do this lesson. We finish each lesson with an opportunity to organise what they’ve been doing, share it with their group and reflect on what they’ve learned and what they still need to do. This part has been the most disappointing. So far only 2/3 of my class have uploaded what they’ve done to edmodo as a record of what they’ve done. Of those 2/3 only two or three have done it in each of the 4 lessons we’ve had so far and almost all of them have been so brief it’s difficult to know exactly what they’ve done and what they actually know.

I’m hoping that once they get through this research phase and onto planning how to present what they know about healthy living and what they can do to help young people live a healthy lifestyle, student engagement and enthusiasm will take off.

I keep wondering, is it normal that a first project task goes like this? Do the students normally enjoy working like this? What could I change to engage them better? to get them reflecting on/recording what they’ve learned more accurately? Have I structured the lessons clearly enough? Hopefully it’s just as the students get used to working working collaboratively and taking responsibility for finding what they need to that this will struggle.

On the positive side, a number of students have taken the step of using edmodo to share information and resources they have found with the whole group and not just their small group. I like to see students who don’t view their learning as a competition but rather a chance for everyone to understand what they are doing.

What are your experiences? Am I being realistic expecting it to be all roses from the very first go? What should I change? I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback.

5 thoughts on “The Biggest Loser Challenge: My PBL journey Volume 2

  1. Jay
    Yes it is normal, your first struggle is breaking years of training in which students have learnt to play the game of school. You have essentially asked them to actively engage in every lesson not just the test at the end. They must unlearn as much as you.

    Where to from here (IMHO)?
    1. Try personalised scoffolds you know your learners, customise each scoffold for the group, this can shape & guide their learning.
    2. Don’t give up on edmodo, after time they will develop metacognative skills & strategies that will enhance it’s use, this does not happen in a handful of lessons
    3. Ask them what they did/din’t like but drill into their response often behind a “I didn’t like it” is actually “I didn’t understand it”.

    Can’t wait for Vol 3 & 4 in your journey.

    Ben 🙂

    1. Thats really helpful feedback Ben, and quite encouraging too. I’m not going to give up on PBL or edmodo, I’m sold on what the can offer. I’m just trying to work out whether this is a normal starting point or not and what I can do to try and help the students get it quicker.

      I think the scaffolding could be a little clearer, which is something I’m working on.

      One thing I didn’t mention that’s also been encouraging is that a number of groups have looked back at other things we learned earlier in the year about mental health and have added them to the task.

      I appreciate your input.

  2. Jay!!!!
    Sounds like a normal day in the teenage classroom….! Haha!!!
    My classroom is loosly based on PBL (@biancahewes may say otherwise! Hehe) meaning that all my units of work start with a focus topic, a few keys artists are used as examples, and my students are asked to problem solve using different medias to resolve an artwork.
    What I find happens, is students don’t know how to plan. They don’t set themselves expectations. How would they know??? If they eat breakfast in the morning, their parent probably packs it for them- how can they organise themselves.
    One trick that I do, when it seems to be going wrong, it to ‘mark’ their work weekly. Write a schedule for what you need to see done…. Collect it and give feedback.
    When that doesn’t work…. Bring the class back as a group and provide a case study as an example. Illustrate your expectations.
    Start a lesson with a video as stimulus, do a brainstorm… Then break up into groups to continue on the project.
    Get the kids to present their ideas to the class and give eachother feedback….

    Lots of things to do to guide their student centered learning. As Ben said- you are undoing all the preconceptions they have in other classes. Sitting in a class and pretending to listen is easy…. But boring… Engaging in your own learning takes effort…. But reaps rewards.

    Can’t wait to hear more! I think it is a great unit!

  3. It’s looking good and sounding familiar. In my experience it is certainly usual. What experience do your students have of this type of learning? If my PhD told me one thing it was that students ‘know; how to learn in schools – they put up and shut up. Now you are asking them to do something very different. Firstly you are valuing what they say and think, which isn’t normal. They now need to learn to trust you in this new role. As they begin to learn how to learn in a new way they will get more comfortable and will come around.

    I would try and make them accountable for their edmodo reflections. Make it part of the score or the final grade…or do what they do in Sport Education and keep a league table based on fair play and positive contribution.

  4. Good work Jay – keep it going. I know we’ve discussed this before, but the students are going through the change process here as well as us. As Ben mentioned, they have to ‘unlearn’ years of conditioned classroom behaviour to completely engage with something new.

    That cultural change is already happening, but it is one that takes some time.

    I don’t have any extra suggestions to those above, but, am confident that when you come back and look at this blog post in perhaps 12 months time, you will be astounded at the behavioural changes that have already taken place (and have a whole new set of frustrations!).

    We do it not because it is easy, but because it is worth it. All that extra effort, time and work will all be beneficial for the students’ sake.

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