Monday, May 14, 2012

Winding Down

In our walled garden PLP virtual learning community--
Scanning through the "latest activity" when this caught my attention--
Amy Musone (@musone), a year 1 team leader in the IU 13 community from the Central York District, PA (, encouraged her team members to reflect with her as they wind down this year of Powerful Learning Practice professional learning. The team had been immersed in an action research project, examining how their teaching would be transformed as they engaged in PBL in order to promote 21st century learning.
Our goal for this post is to reflect on where each of us started and where we have come.

Remember our driving question:   How will the Pringles Project transform our teaching practices to promote 21st century skills within our students?  

Our beginning: We started with a survey to gather information about how each of us perceived ourselves along with information about what we felt comfortable and uncomfortable with. We input data using this Google form. We shared our thinking when we met via Skype and on the Community Hub.  

Now: Now it is time for us to reflect on what we have done, how we've grown, and struggles that still hold us back. It is also important for us to consider and share where we plan to go from here.   Looking forward to hearing your ideas!
And leader that she is, she modeled for them her own reflection:
Okay...when we began this venture, I felt unsure of myself and a little self-conscious that I just wasn't "getting it." One thing I wasn't sure about was what exactly was expected of me. As I became more involved I came to the conclusion that the expectation was going to be set by one person...myself. I could get guidance and encouragement from my team members and the PLP community at large, but ideally, the motivation to move forward and become a more effective educator came from within. I knew that I alway wanted to engage in PBL, but never knew how to fully embrace it. Through our meetings both with my PLP Year 1 team and the larger community webinars I felt like I could wrap my head around this idea. head was in the right place, finally. My students are just completing their projects. My room was a disaster (we were using packaging materials), there was a constant buzz of excited and on-task conversations, and the creative juices were flowing. There is NO way that I could have "taught" them everything that they discovered (technology, and science) and that made me glow. ....  

This project has begun to infiltrate other activities that happen throughout the school day. I worked to devise a project with another teacher in my classroom and have collaborated with the gifted support teacher on a project. I am truly excited about this.  My hope would be to work with the PLP group on other projects.... I know that in order to do this, we are going to need teacher and administrative buy in. Luckily, I have plenty of artifacts created by kids to demonstrate learning, problem solving, critical thinking skills, and collaboration. Still have a hill to climb...sure, but I've taken a couple of steps!
With Amy's powerful reflection on her PLP journey, I decided to "follow" the discussion; sure enough, the next day Melissa Wilson responded. She shared in part her challenges and her beliefs in the power of PBL:
This has been a very challenging project. At the fifth grade level there are many obstacles to overcome just to find the time to proceed with a problem based assignment. ...  

I believe that there is a real need for problem based learning. ... The challenges created by this type of project parallel the types of challenges the students will face in real life....  

Next year I plan to look at ways that I can create projects such as "The Pringle Project" that will fit in the curriculum. In designing these assignments the plan is to be able to deliver instruction covering the curriculum and then allow the students to use what they have learned in creative real world problem solving. With support from my colleagues I hope that this will help my students to learn and prepare them for the future.
And then Barb Ream chimed in a day later attributing their success and learning to their coach; Amy, their team leader; and their collaboration:
I know that the point of this whole project was to think differently about education by experiencing it firsthand. I am an old fashioned learner who is used to having everything laid out for me. ..  

I felt like I was floundering - a fish out of water. I felt like it must just be me, however after talking to the rest of my group I realized it wasn't just me. We all floundered together and somehow we managed to figure it out in the end.  

I feel the reason we were able to pull it together was for a number of reasons. The first was we had a great coach. Peter (@peterskillen) really guided us through the process and made us think outside the box. Our fearless leader, Amy, was invaluable. Her insight, leadership, creativity, and motivation pulled us through. We would have been lost forever without her. Lastly, my team members. It was such a great experience getting to know members of my school community better. We met through skype and in person. We had great collaboration sessions and worked very well together.  

I think this project taught me many things. The first is that it is ok to be messy learners. .... I learned that if you give students an interesting project, they will come up with some amazing solutions to problems.  

My plan for the future is to continue to create more Problem Based Projects. I actually enjoyed how all of the students came up with different solutions to the same problem. I also plan on sharing this with more colleagues in hopes of having them do something similar.
Deep reflections with common themes--  
Initially overwhelmed with uncertainty and challenges yet persevering-- Floundering and figuring it out together--  
Appreciations for collaboration, the risk taking that enables, and hopes to continue that--  
Recognition of the power of a collegial team working together and of PBL in learning--  
Evidence of profound, collegial professional learning-- absorbing, doing, interacting and reflecting--

Although this team is winding down their formal time together in year 1 PLP, these reflections portend a gearing up--  
for future collaborations, collegial learning,
for more in depth journeys into transforming their teaching practices to promote 21st century skills within their students.

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