In my previous post, I wrote that I was afraid the students lost the history part of the assignment. Upon reading their documentary proposals, I was right. There was a lot of discussion about NOW, but not so much about how the scientific or technological development impacted HISTORY. I have compiled a list of what I will change for next year if I am lucky enough to teach the course again.
Ideas to Improve for Next Year:
1. Use one or two documentary proposals from this year as exemplars. This way, students will have an idea of what needs to be included and will also have an idea of how to improve upon last year's students. For example, on the exemplars, I will note comments about how they could have been improved. This way I can show the students where more of the history could have been incorporated.
2. Students will have, as a follow up to the brainstorming about "best", an informal discussion with me about how their development fits into the criteria they determined for "best".
3. I will "Gini-Newmanize" the assignment. To truly decide what is best, I will have students brainstorm a short list of possible best developments so that they have developments to compare against. I think this will foster more critical thinking.
4. Students will have practice answering questions about their work in informal settings. They have been completing debriefs after each assignment, so I may make the questions more specific or I might have more informal presentations where an expectation will be for students to ask each other questions. I also plan on using blogging, so that will also be a way for students to read and respond to each others' work.
Ideas I'm Proud of and Will Keep Doing:
1. I'm glad that the students worked with partners or small groups. I got to see different aspects of the students, as some took on definite leadership roles. Students also got to experience negotiating with their group members and reaching compromises. I also had one student make a difficult decision and break off from his partner because he wasn't doing any work and was holding him back.
2. I liked having a teacher panel come in. The students took the one-minute pitches more seriously because they had an authentic audience. I also think that it is important for students to share their work. One student commented to me that he liked having the opportunity to see what his classmates were working on.
3. I liked going beyond the essay or the research report. I think having students write and present for different reasons and audiences strengthens their ability to communicate ideas.
I think with some tweaks and experience, I can improve this unit. My goal is to bring PBL to my other units and other courses.