In project-based learning, students are first engaged with an issue, question, or problem they want to solve and then learn content in order to answer it. This helps students connect learning to the real world because there is an obvious why to the content they are learning.
With a PBL approach, students may still create presentations, public service announcements, comics and other products; the difference is that they are responsible for choosing what product best helps them showcase their ideas and content.
Project-based learning is a process, not a product
Project-based learning takes place over an extended period of time, not one class period or even a week. Responding to an effective PBL prompt or question takes time: time to question, time to research, time to ponder, time to question again, time to imagine, time to respond, and time to act.
Many educators follow a process to support student learning during this time. They may use a design-thinking approach, the engineering design process, or a combination they have developed that best meets the needs of their learners.
No matter which process you use, Wixie provides a canvas you and your students can use through-out to support thinking, ideation, and formative assessment. Wixie includes a STEM-PBL folder filled with several templates for each phase of the process. For any idea in bold mentioned below, type that term in Wixie’s search field to find, open, or assign it.
Phase 1: Exploration and Questioning
There are many ways to kick-off project-based learning, such as a guest speaker, field trip, or other experience that captures student interest and gets them thinking and questioning. Use Wixie to capture student feelings, responses, and questions during the initial kick-off or in response to the experience.
To get students thinking, use a Think-puzzle-explore or KWHL organizer. Not only do these help you evaluate interest and thinking, they can also help prompt student action and determine the direction they want to take a project.
If you need to encourage students to analyze information for bias, opinion, or accuracy, try a Fact vs. Opinion organizer.
If your PBL requires students to design to solve a problem, an Empathy map can help them better understand and meet the needs of the end user.
Phase 2: Imagine and Ideate
An essential part of project-based learning is combining analytical thinking with creative thinking to find a new approach to solve a problem or imagine original solutions.
Cluster organizers, along with I see, I wonder-style organizers are helpful to get students to expand their thinking when they are just learning to take ownership of learning.
While students can add ideas or thoughts to an open-ended cluster diagram or concept map, giving them a Wixie project that has a set number of spaces to fill sets the expectation that they will brainstorm at least that many.
Phase 3: Plan
During the Plan phase, students revisit their ideas, choose a direction, and develop a plan to guide their work.
After students come up with ideas or information, using a Fact vs. Opinion or Pros vs. Cons organizer can help them choose a single idea or direction in which to take their work. Edward de Bono created the Plus-Minus-Interesting (PMI) thinking routine, which you can use to help students consider all sides to an issue or situation before they form an opinion or choose a direction for their work.
Organizers like cycles, flowcharts, sequences and storyboards help students consider tasks they need to complete at the beginning, middle, editing, and presentation stages of their design work. Cycle organizers can help students see how design is a recursive process, but if you just need them to get from A to B, a flowchart can help them see steps to take to move from idea to solution.
Taking the time to produce a storyboard for a video, animation, or even slide deck, not only helps students organize their tasks, but also gives them a big picture view of their ideas. An OREO organizer can also help students formulate effective effective communication that cause others to change behaviors or take actions.
Not only do these organizers support students through the process, they also provide a tangible artifact of student thinking and a check-in point you can use to assess student understanding and progress to determine your next steps and adjust instruction.
Phase 4: Create
Wixie is an ideal and versatile canvas for creating project-based learning products. When students start Wixie from a blank page, they take ownership of their product and can choose to create a range of solutions such as public service announcements to raise awareness, eBooks to inform, comics to entertain, and much more.
If you think your students will choose Wixie to showcase or provide their solution, be sure to show examples of high-quality completed work when you set expectations and kick off the project. If students have used Wixie in the past, you can even add their work to your Wixie Showcase so you can spotlight their work even after students have left your class.
Wixie can also help you monitor student progress during this phase of project-based learning. Use a Wixie exit ticket like a 3-2-1 or a reflection template to better grasp your students thinking, progress, and needs. While you can do this through the process and not just during the create phase, this phase can be the most difficult to monitor progress since it is most often the longest phase of the process without benchmarks.
Phase 5: Improve
While many project-based learning implementations end at the product showcase, presentation, or celebration, taking the time to revisit work and get feedback connects learning to the real world where solutions are rarely designed and considered finished on the first try.
"We don’t learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey
Take the time for peer feedback and even personal evaluation. Assign a warm and cool feedback or feedback quadrant template to guide student, or even team, feedback. When students have to give feedback on another project through a Wixie assignment, it makes them partly responsible for the success of the other students.
Providing specific, actionable steps another student can take to improve their work not only helps their peers, it helps the reviewer make connections to effective design, writing, argument and more. It also creates a sense of community where students are all in this together, not competing against one another.
Wixie includes a rubric you can attach to student work. They can see this assessment while working in Wixie and can evaluate their own work according to the criteria for their work. Where is there room for improvement? By scoring their work against the rubric, they can see specific areas, if not steps, they can take to improve their work. If you have worked together to develop a rubric, the evaluation criteria will already be internalized, and many students will be seeking to improve throughout the process.
Using Wixie's Team feature for collaboration
Wixie's team feature lets you, or your students, set up collaborative projects between students in your class or between students in different classes at your site.
You can set all student work up in teams or just parts. For example, you could create one team project with all the templates you want them to complete during the project. Team members work synchronously or asynchronously on the ideas. You can provide feedback on the project and all students on the team will be able to read it.
You could also have students complete research individually, but build a product/solution/project collaboratively. Even if they collaborate, you may also choose to have students turn in progress reflections individually.
Students working individually can send a project URL to another student if they want them to view their work and provide feedback, or they can invite this student to the project team and work together to make changes. Any project begun by a student will include their teacher(s) as part of the team so you can monitor their work.
Take advantage of Wixie for project-based learning to not only provide a powerful platform for student designs and solutions, but as a tool to help you manage and support student thinking throughout the process.