Project Based Learning at Berthold.

Students working on a project in class.

Students working on a project in class.

Children should not be judged solely upon test scores to understand their competency in a subject area.  This, for many reasons simply shows that they can respond to a memorization and regurgitation environment. Ultimately, this is one of the most fundamental flaws in our education system because the content taught to children is done so in this method to then produce great test scores and get the school funding it wants.  

At Berthold, we use many different educational techniques for children to reach objectives in their education.  One of those is a project-based learning strategy that we use in our creative expression and applied academics classes.  

I am sure you have heard the term before if you keep up with education.  I am sure this has been presented to you at the public school your child or friend's child has attended.  PBL is a buzz word in education and gets parents thinking that their kids are learning in the latest, most effective manner.  Unfortunately, that is just not the case...

You see, in order for kids to learn in a new and exciting way through hands-on engaged projects, we must be able to keep things consistent, moving forward, and be able to assess the outcome at the end.  We must create a language that the students can identify with to produce a method to the madness a project can create.  

Our educators, consultants, partners in silicon valley, and students, have all helped us come to what we call a “phased” approach to PBL.  Students in our school work will work through this process no matter what project they are working on in whatever curriculums it might cover.  This allows for our students to have consistency throughout their experience, and our teachers to have a framework to build amazing PBL lessons.  It also allows us to quantify these experiences through deep and rich assessments tying competencies to Virginia State Standards.

Here are our phases for PBL at Berthold.

Inspirational Phase

Inspiration and exploration are key to motivation.

Inspiration and exploration are key to motivation.

The educator presents the topic, the history, a variety of ways to think about the project, and a range of options on how to proceed.  Initial goals and deadlines are set

Explorational Phase

Brainstorming; the creative stage in which students figure out what excites them about the project.  The focus of the project becomes narrower at this phase

Designing Phase

Students design their approach to researching/examining/building/creating/revising and learning about the topic.  The purpose or direct educational aim is defined in this phase

Immersive Phase

Students are deeply engaged in reading, learning, working with, testing and performing all steps they have designed for their project.  Goals and deadlines are reassessed at this phase

Finalizing Phase

Students write report, create projects, prepare presentations or materials to present (depending on their design) to an identified audience.  Students should be anticipating  questions from the audience at this phase

Presenting Phase

Student turns in project and/or presents to class.  Self and peer reflections/evaluation follow.

In working through these phases of a project students can keep focused within a framework that still allows for agency in their learning but keeps them from getting too distracted with the process. In displaying their work, students can represent their competency to their teachers and fellow students.  Using feedback from both and attaching Virginia State Standards, we can portray a meaningful assessment of the student's growth and progress.

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