The Cells 'R Us project based learning experience is broken up into two units -- Cells and Organelles and Cell Processes. Instead of teaching all the content and then expecting the students to use it in their projects, I teach the content as the students progress through the project in an attempt to achieve "just-in-time" teaching. This allows me to chunk the lessons in a way that makes sense to the big project without overwhelming the students with information.
The complete sequence of lessons I use is:
In between that sequence, I provide work days so the students can integrate what they have learned into their final project.
The specific lessons that cover the development of the project are:
I start the lesson by having students put any final touches on their Cells 'R Us projects and pick up the sheets they will need as they visit each other's work. After a couple of minutes, I project the "feedback sheet", and go over it's purpose and expectations.
"First, you will visit all exhibits. You do not have to move as a team. This is about having an opportunity to view each other's work, read the documents that accompany them, and deciding which two are useful to you as a student. Once you have made your decision, you will use the feedback sheet to let those teams know what are the biggest strengths you see in their work. You can collaborate with each other, but each of you is responsible for giving feedback to two teams."
I have students use the feedback sheet to give students a framework for engaging in discussions with scientific peers and examine their own understanding of the information being presented by the different teams (SP8). The feedback sheet is a variation of the I like-I wish-I wonder strategy I have previously used with the students, aimed at focusing the students' interactions on the learning gained through the experience, as well as the strengths of their work. I eliminated the "I wish- (areas of improvement)" since this is the end product, and students will not be required to improve on these particular pieces of work.
As the students are completing their feedback sheets for each other (CellsRUs 1, CellsRUs 2, CellsRUs 3, CellsRUs 4, CellsRUs 5), I also take the opportunity to grade the the different projects using the rubric.
This is what the students thought about the Cells'R Us project.
Part of getting my students to become life-long learners is giving them opportunities to reflect on what was learned and how it might be applied to future experiences. Reflective learners stand back from what was done, analyze the experience to determine strengths and weaknesses and develop insights that go beyond a specific project or learning opportunity. The reflections not only allow my students to look back on the work they did, but they also become compelling instruments in how I might address the same project in years to come. This is where the students "tell" me what to look for in other projects or lessons and where they perceive their own areas of strength and weakness are and revealing opportunities for me to support them.
With that in mind, and using the scheme that the students manage weekly in their blogs (see Enter the Blog), after each project I have my students write a project reflection.
These are some examples specific to this project. I would love to hear your thoughts about what they wrote.