PROJECT BASED LEARNING WITH RAISBECK AVIATION HIGH SCHOOL
The teachers at Raisbeck Aviation High School attribute a significant part of their success (Rated #1 in WA–US News and World Report, 2016) to their extensive use of project based learning (PBL), an approach to instruction that engages students in answering questions and solving problems that are embedded in authentic contexts and require students to use real life approaches to them. This is particularly true of projects promoting STEM learning.
An aspect of these projects that often intimidates students is the use of adult experts from outside the school as judges. A ninth grade science student said “It was daunting. You don’t want to look like a fool.” Another added, “You are afraid you won’t be able to impress professionals. These people do this kind of work for a living.” Similarly, a student faced with the Sophomore Environmental Challenge said, “At first it was overwhelming. It was a really big project, a ‘big kid’ problem.”
However, at the end of the experience, the students felt considerably different. Some focus on the sense of accomplishment that comes from this challenge: “I felt accomplished; we had handled the “big kid” problem without taking any shortcuts. I was confident to present to the adults because we had a real life idea.” Students also showed appreciation for the ways these adults helped them learn: “They were super nice to us. They gave us very good feedback, information about our work that was more valuable than a grade. It was rewarding for them to think our work was quality.”
Even more revealing about the value of the feedback provided was one group member’s response: “Our group didn’t do as well as we should have, but we got good feedback, specific information that helped me do much better on a later English project.” His group had learned not only from doing the project but also from the feedback they received.
The teachers at Raisbeck Aviation High School, along with staff from the Museum of Flight, are preparing a workshop to be offered to area educators to help them learn to develop and use a similar approach to PBL in their own classrooms. Participants will learn the essential principles of PBL, but, more importantly, they will be helped to develop a project of their own for use in the next school year. As a result, even more students will gain the benefits of this approach to PBL.
For more information about summer 2016 institutes for educators click HERE.