Thursday, March 3, 2011

Challenges of Project Based Learning (PBL) in AP Stat

Doing project based learning (PBL) in AP Stat this year has been a challenge. Ultimately, the best part about it is the learning experiences and opportunities it provides students. Every time a project is completed I think of 300 things that could be changed to make it, excuse me for using the phrase "100% better" (kind of an inside joke).  Below I've listed my major concerns about these projects, and the solutions I'm considering.  Your input on any of these is greatly appreciated.

Concerns and Solutions
1. The project was not rigorous enough. It covered too many skills too broadly, or too few skills in unnecessary depth.
     I want to make sure I create a sample project for each project to see just how in depth the projects go. I'm guilty of doing a bare-bones project example (okay, sometimes not even one at all).  There, I said it, I don't always do the project I assign.  The reason for this is to learn alongside of my students.

2. Some kids put a lot of work into a project that just doesn't really address much content, does so incorrectly, or doesn't really get into depth.
     Do it over. It's worth the learning experience of starting from scratch and completing the project again. 

3. What are they actually learning and can they replicate it
     Most of the time a project will involve them learning a new piece of technology as well as learning an AP Stat concept in greater detail.  I'm not sure these projects translate very well to getting an answer correct on the AP exam. Honestly, I want my projects to be far removed from getting right answers on an AP exam.

The Stat Project Process
1. Skills Organization - lay out the content related skills you will be addressing in your project
     Example: conditions for using the binomial/geometric probability distributions, calculating probability for each distribution, determining expected value and standard deviation for a probability distribution

2. Place context on each skill - group brainstorming to see what context fits each skill the best
     Example: highlight the difference between the two probability distributions by filming students walking downthehallway until we observe one of them wearing earbuds (geometric). Compare with a binomial distribution, showing 10 kids walking down the hall, 5 of which are wearing earbuds. 
3. Storyboard/Product: what multimedia can we put together, how does it flow, how does everything fit together?  
     Here's where students choose a tool that meets their project's needs.  

4. Edits - does anything need to be rethought or redone as something better?  
     High school students seem to miss this step in almost everything they do, once the "be done" mentality takes over. Sometimes the "do it over" option is the best learning experience.  I've found I've spent more time suggesting they edit and critique their own work and each others' work, and it's made a world of difference in overall quality of product and understanding of statistics.  

Since I don't believe in giving deadlines for learning, when a student asks when their projects are due, I tell them that they may turn them in whenever this process is completed.  With most projects I honestly don't think this process is ever completed.


Dayna said...

Your last paragraph is on target! Regarding PBL, the thing that I have learned the most over the last several years is that it is always a work in progress. Reflection is key for both the students and the teacher.

If you are interested in posing any specific questions regarding PBL, please feel free to post them in the discussion forum of the Buck Institute for Education's site.

Dayna - BIE National Faculty

Christiansen said...

Thanks for the comment! I'm working my way through mastering this PBL thing and your website is fantastic. Thanks for sharing.