Saturday, November 21, 2015

Transitioning to PBL

I have been lucky enough this year to collaborate closely with a teacher new to our school, Miriam (@msinger216). She brings a wealth of knowledge from teaching at Deerfield with Carmel Schettino (@SchettinoPBL). We decided at the beginning of the year to "throw out" the old, traditional textbook and adopt the curriculum that Deerfield has been using (a collaboration between Deerfield Academy, Emma Willard School, and Phillips Exeter Academy).

Whoa has it been a whirlwind!

I have learned (and I'm still learning) SO MUCH.

I plan to post another blog VERY soon about a new way of grading assessments that Carmel developed and that Miriam and I used recently. But right now, I need to just word vomit my thoughts on what we've done so far this year.


  • Fully taking on a Problem-Based Curriculum is HARD. I think it truly takes a master teacher to have it be effective. There are so many small conversations that come out of just ONE problem. And sometimes I feel like I even miss things, though I am doing the problems before the students are doing them. I know that next year, it will be a little easier. 
  • Working ahead is essential. Too often, I find myself scrambling to do problems to know what length to make the next assignment. I know I need to get several pages ahead, and making time for that should be a priority. 
  • Having the FULL support of your administration is so important. There has been some push-back from parents this year. I get that they don't understand what we're doing. In a perfect world, they would try to understand it instead of attacking it because it's not the way they learned math (or their older kids learned it at the same school). If that is an argument against what we're doing, it's not a good one. Students of today are not the same as students of years past. We need them to be nimble problem solvers and critical thinkers that can decide which tool to grab out of their toolbox. 
  • I need to figure out when I think it's important to do something by hand versus doing it in Desmos or Geogebra. There are many problems that are made much simpler by solving them with technology. But, I also value being able to solve equations algebraically. Sometimes I want an EXACT answer versus approximate. But how often is it important? (I really would love feedback on this...will probably tweet about it too.) 
  • Going through these problems myself really helps me to better understand geometry. I have AHA moments in the classroom just like the kids do. And this is just pure FUN!
That might be all for now. Hopefully over Thanksgiving break, I'll blog about using Carmel's rubric and how it went in my classes. And what I learned from it, how to change it, etc.

Do you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions, comments? Please leave them below! You want to collaborate or chat? I'm up for that too! 

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