Introducing Project Based Learning in the Classroom, June 6 - July 10, 2016


I'm a high school English and German teacher, teacher trainer, course designer, international speaker and workshop leader, education technology consultant, eTwinning ambassador and a 2014-2015 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow.

I'm a self-learner and I'm addicted to learning.

Check out my portfolio and my blogs below.

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I teach at IX. gimnazija, a high school in Zagreb Croatia. There are about 500 students aged 14-18. There are 45 teachers at my school. In 2013, we proudly opened the Croatian Future Classroom at my school. It is a lively and well-equipped classroom, inspired by the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels.

CFC - Croatian Future Classroom

Here's a short video about my school:

Find out how we built it and how we use it by clicking here:

M1: What is PBL and why use it

1.1. What Is PBL

As mentioned in the videos by BIE and Edutopia, critical thinking, collaboration and communication are the key to successful Project-Based Learning. I think it is important to make sure that project activities are meaningful to students. Project activities should also be authentic so that students can easily relate to them. In my teaching I try to implement PBL as often as possible, but one of the biggest problems I face is that students often times prefer being passive listeners and consumers of information instead of active creators of content. What they want is just learn for the test. This is one of the main reasons why I enrolled in this course.

The difference between doing projects and project-based learning
by Amy Fried on friEd Technology

1.2. Why Use PBL

I believe lack of student engagement is one of the reasons why PBL is not used widely in schools. In most school activities students are required to learn and reproduce information they are given by their teachers. They are not asked to interpret and compare varied ideas, they are not required to analyse or synthetise unique concepts, nor are they encouraged to evaluate information or viewpoints and identify reasonable ideas - or in other words - they are not constructing new, deep knowledge, they are not creating new content - they are just passive listeners and consumers of information. Another reason is that even though teachers would like to change the way they teach, they just can't because of various reasons, such as rigid and inflexible curriculum, standardized testing system, traditional teaching practices, just to mention a few. I think this quote from Kathryn Carr's book: How Can We Teach Critical thinking? nicely sums it up:

Every teacher should create an atmosphere where students are encouraged to read deeply, question, engage in divergent thinking, look for relationships among ideas and grapple with real life issues. ~ Kathryn Carr

1.3. P2P: Reflections On My Current Teaching Practice

I believe that school is a place where students can create their own learning content and show how creative they are. I often try to encourage them to create something new, be it a writing piece, a presentation, a mindmap or an audio recording. Sometimes I involve them in a project that aims at engaging them in critical thinking and problem solving. I scaffold the project, but I give them open hands to decide how they want to proceed and what their final product will be. However, I have noticed that they prefer to follow my suggestions rather than work with their classmates or peers from other countries and bring independent decisions. Sometimes I have a feeling they don't trust themselves enough and don't dare to do activities differently from the way they had been taught before. It usually takes the whole school year to build their confidence and empower them to be actively engaged in learning. At other times, however, and mostly due to a rigid and infelxible curriculum as well as to standardized testing, I teach with a textbook for the test. I always feel bad about it! In my ideal school my students don't need to take exams because their learning can be showcased in tangible learning outcomes. too. After finishing this PBL course I'd like to experiment with my seniors in Class 4. As this is their last year at school, I would like to introduce the topic of business and entreprenurship.

1.4 Five Key Components of Good PBL

Real-world Connection - authentic and meaningful activities that students do and real audience.

Core to Learning - metacognition - they are aware of their learning, of what they're learning.

Collaboration - students work in team and share responsibility for their learning and the final product.

Student-driven - the teacher is only a facilitator, students are responsible for their learning. Learning is very carefully scaffolded. Teacher gives hints, not answers.

Multifaceted Assessement - integrated assessment thorugh the whole unit, formative assessment, small check-ins to see where students are with their learning, peer assessment is important too.

The most challenging of the 5 components in my teaching context is Student-Driven Learning because my students still prefer to listen passively. They want me to ask questions to which they would give simple asnwers. They don't question the information they are given nor explore it any further. They do not initiate new questions and new information. They don't see learning as something that belongs to them nor something that they should own. I want my students to question arguments, information, ideas, opinions and viewpoints, to go deeper and generate new questions which will lead them to new knowledge.

If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow. ~ John Dewey

1.5 The Driving Question

According to John Mergendoller of the Buck Institute for Education, such a project should contain "non-Googleable Driving Questions". Mergendoller defines non-Googleable Driving Questions as driving questions to which answers can't be googled.His examples of Googleable questions are: "Who were the first settlers in our city?""What does it mean to be a healthy eater?""How are airplanes wings constructed?"

Of course, Mergendoller doesn't want to say "that these questions aren't worth knowing, because they are, and they can lead students to engage in a form of research. Such research, however, emphasizes uncovering information and explicating concepts, rather than thinking critically about information and concepts."

On the other hand, non-Googleable questions would be: "What was the most important cause of our city's growth?""How can we best convince teenagers to be healthy eaters?"How can we design an airplane wing that is light and will support 25 pounds without breaking?" Answers to these questions can't be found on Google without "digging" deeply. While doing research to find answers, students will develop higher-order thinking skills: analyse the information they find, interpret it and compare their findings, synthesise the ideas, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, peer and self-assess it, find solutions and create a new product.

In a PBL approach questioning matters - but it matters in the traditional approach to learning as well. The difference is, however, that in the traditional classroom it is the teacher who asks questions to which answers can easily be found and which usually do not go beyond the immediately available information. In a PBL classroom, it is not only the teacher who asks open-ended questions, but also students themselves. Students are encouraged to question arguments, information, ideas, opinions and viewpoints, to go deeper and generate new questions which will lead them to new knowledge.

Image credit: Video: PBL- Creating A Driving Question

Formulating A Driving Question

Formulating a good driving question is rather difficult and challenging. At the Buck Institute for Education they suggest using a fun hands-on "Tubric" - a rubric in the form of a tube:

The Right Question

I just came across The Right Question Institute, where you can learn how to develop the skill of asking good questions with your students. They offer very detailed step by step guides on how to introduce questioning to students and how to help them bring better decisions.

1.6 P2P - Your PBL Design: Formulating your driving question

How can you develop a marketing campaign for your start-up?

Some further thoughts on M1

Several years ago when I started exploring project-based learning I came across three different approaches to 21st century learning:

  • Project-based learning - students come up with a project (oral, written, multimedia or visual). The project may or may not be problem-based or inquiry-based.
  • Problem-based learning - students investigate an authentic problem and come up with a solution.
  • Inquiry-based learning - students are actively involved in constructing in-depth knowledge and asking further questions.

"All these approaches focus on developing problem-solving, critical thinking and information-processing skills. They closely relate to each other and often they overlap", I wrote in an eTwinning learning event.

When I started this course, however, I reflected on the above-mentioned thoughts and explored those different approaches even further. I came across an interesting article by John Larmer from the Buck Institute for Education about the differences and similiarities between them.

Interestingly enough, there's a number of different types of ______-based learning, such as Design-based learning, Location-based learning, Game-based learning, .... even Zombie-based learning. The author claims that the term "project learning" derives from the work of John Dewey and dates back to William Kilpatrick, who first used the term in 1918. Project-based learning is seen as a broad category or a "big tent" whereas all the other approaches are modern versions of the same concept.

Here are two graphics with differences and similarities between Problem-based and Project-based learning from the article:

The author concludes: "What type of PBL you decide to call your, er . . . extended learning experience just depends on how you frame it. The bottom line is the same: both PBLs can powerfully engage and effectively teach your students!"

for your reviews, Stathis, Stefan, Federica and Valeriu. I greatly appreciate it.

M2: Developing Effective Collaboration For PBL


This is the photo I uploaded on the Collaboration Padlet. It was taken in a professional development workshop that I co-led recently. There were teachers from different European countries who had just met the day before and for this activity they were asked to do the Marshmellow Challenge. It was amazing how successfully they worked together against the clock and how respectful they were of each others’ ideas and suggestions.

Collaboration Is The Key

I'm a collaborator. I function so much better in a team - be it just with one person or with a whole bunch of people - it doesn't matter. I feel better as part of a team. Working alone makes me feel unhappy and ill-at ease. Maybe it's because I'm self-conscious and I need someone to encourage me and tell me that everything will be alright. It works both ways - I also need someone who I can encourage and support.

Working in a team for me means unfolding creativity. Brainstorming, coming up with new ideas, discussing issues, finding answers, solving problems, creating solutions, reaching important decisions or inventing and creating new products - it all runs smoothly when I'm collaborating with my team members.

2.1 Twitter Chat with Bart Verswijvel

I've been on Twitter since 2009. I signed up because I wanted to see what Ashton Kutcher tweeted about so I followed him. I'm still following him, but he has never followed me back. But so many educators have! Twitter has been a game changer for me! A whole new world opened up for me on Twitter - the world of my PLN - Personal learning network. I have connected with like-minded teachers, started different projects, shared experiences, ideas, thoughts! Twitter is for me the best place to develop professionally. Twitter connected me with Bart Verswijvel in 2010.

Exploring new technologies with Bart

Bart is one of my key collaborators. We have been working together ever since 2010, first with students, then as teacher trainers for teachers all over the world. Together we have designed, developed, moderated and led lots of professional development workshops, keynotes, conferences, learning events, studentsmeets, teachmeeets, global webinars and even a brown bag lunch. In 2013 we started #etwion, the first eTwinning twitter marathon which lasted for 4 hours and during which I sent out so many tweets that Twitter temporarily banned me from tweeting! They thought I was spamming, while I was being fully immersed in an educational Twitter chat! Since then we have done a number of really successful and inspiring chats.

Tonight's #PBLcourse chat was also very inspiring. Stats say I sent out 67 tweets in an hour, and this is just a drop in the ocean of other tweets - more than 1,500 tweets by 250 participants. Absolutely amazing! Here's the transcript!

2.2 What is effective collaboration?

In today's world when people are globally connected, not much work is done by one person only. More and more people have to work together. They need to have well-developed collaborative skills to work efficiently and productively as members of a team as well as to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams. Learning how to work in a team must start at school. Students should be taught collaborative skills at an early age.

Collaboration skills encompass the skills of negotiation, conflict resolution, efficient distribution of tasks, decision making skills, respecting the ideas of other people, integrating ideas into a coherent whole, teamwork and leadership skills.

If not all team members contribute equally to the common goal, we can't talk about collaboration. For work to be truly collaborative, students must have shared responsibility, which means that they own the work and are equally responsible for the outcome. The contribution of each team member is crucial for the team's success. Their work must be fairly divided. Each team member is responsible for a task that he or she must complete in order to successfully finish the team work as a coherent whole. Each component must be essential for the final product and team members must learn to value and respect the individual contributions made by each team member.

Another important feature of collaborative work is that students are able and are allowed to make substantive decisions. According to the ITL Research, substantive decisions are decisions that shape the content, process or product of students’ work. Students are making substantive decisions when they are actively resolving important issues that will guide their work. Students are making substantive decisions together when they interact with one another to jointly arrive at their decision. During this process, students share ideas, listen to each other, negotiate and debate if they do not initially agree. It is also a good idea to encourage students to decide on strategies which will help them reach agreement: for example, they have to convince each other, or they will take a vote and go with the majority opinion. In this way students will learn how to be flexible and willing to make necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal.

Equally important for students in collaborative activities is the opportunity to give and receive constant feedback. As they work in small groups, students can easily and immediately respond to their peers' ideas and opinions by giving personalized feedback.

2.3 Effective Collaboration for PBL inside the Classroom

K. O. Kane & J. Y. Harms: A Guide To Collaboration In The Classroom

Dr. Kathleen O. Kane and Dr. Joan Y. Harms from the University of Hawaii outline the key characteristics of a collaborative approach to learning as compared to a traditional approach:

  • Students rather than only teachers have increased control over learning.
  • Responsibility for learning is more teachers are facilitators
  • Students work cooperatively rather than competitively
  • Students master knowledge through constructing content rather than through memorizing content
  • Students help set their own goals and means of assessment
  • Teachers and student jointly construct knowledge

A collaborative approach to learning can be described on a continuum from learners as receivers of information to learners as constructors of knowledge; and, teachers as disseminators of knowledge to teachers as contributors to knowledge along with students. The authors point out the importance of setting up a series of ground rules which state clearly what is expected in terms of behavior within the group and which sets the tone for all future interactions:

  1. Respect others
  2. Listen to understand and avoid interrupting others
  3. Listen to understand and avoid interrupting others
  4. Resist the temptation to put words into another person’s mouth
  5. Be clear and concise
  6. Avoid side conversations while someone else has the floor
  7. Maintain an open and positive attitude
  8. Be open and non-defensive about your own ideas
  9. Switch seats during breaks
  10. Everyone needs to participate
M. Clifford: Facilitating Collaborative Learning: 20 Things You Need To Know From the Pros

In the article Facilitating Collaborative Learning: 20 Things You Need To Know From the Pros, Miriam Clifford, states that collaborative learning teams attain higher level thinking and preserve information for longer times than students working individually. Clifford mentions 20 ways to include best practices for collaborative learning in our classroom:

  • establish group goals
  • keep group midsized
  • establish flexible group norms
  • build trust and promote open communication
  • for larger tasks, create group roles
  • create a pre-test and a post-test
  • consider the learning process itself as part of assessment
  • consider different strategies
  • allow groups to reduce anxiety
  • establish group interactions
  • use real-world problems
  • focus on enhancing problem-solving and critical thinking skills
  • keep in mind the diversity of groups
  • groups with an equal number of boys and girls are best
  • use scaffolding
  • include different types of learning scenarios
  • technology makes collaborative learning easier
  • keep in mind the critics
  • be wary of "group thinks" - change up groups
  • value diversity
The Basic Collaborative Learning Techniques
Find more information on these basic collaborative learning techniques by clicking this link:
Challenges and conflicts

The authors of What is the Collaborative Classroom? point out that when we move from traditional to collaborative instruction, several important issues are likely to arise:

1) Classroom Control - Collaborative classrooms tend to be noisier than traditional classrooms. Some teachers believe that noisy classrooms indicate lack of discipline or teacher control. In such situations, they argue, students cannot learn. On the other hand, the authors believe, the noise in a smoothly running collaborative classroom indicates that active learning is going on. However, rules and standards must be stressed from the beginning. Noise is welcome, but chaos isn't.

2) Preparation Time for Collaborative Learning - Teachers may believe that new lesson plans must be formed for these classrooms. To a certain extent, this is correct. But many teachers have already created engaging units and activities that are easily implemented in a collaborative classroom. Teachers can also share their plans with each other. Indeed, if we expect students to collaborate, we should encourage teachers to do the same!

3) Individual Differences Among Students - Many collaborative teachers have expressed surprise when seemingly less-able students had insights and ideas that went way beyond what teachers expected. Further, if each student contributes something, the pool of collective knowledge will indeed be rich. Data suggest that high-achieving students gain much from their exposure to diverse experiences and also from peer tutoring. Shy students might feel more comfortable talking in small groups that share responsibility for learning.

4) Individual Responsibility for Learning - In collaborative classrooms, it is often difficult to assign individual grades. Some teachers give group grades, but many students and parents are uncomfortable with these. Ideally, assessment practices should be changed so that they are consistent with collaboration, with a new view of learning and with a thinking curriculum. For example, David Johnson and Roger Johnson, as well as Robert Slavin, advise making individuals responsible for subtasks in group work and then determining both group and individual grades.

5) Conflict of Values - Many teachers do not feel comfortable allowing students to initiate dialogue, determine topics, or explore perspectives other than the teacher's. In part this is because many teachers believe that their role is to transmit knowledge; in part it is because they are held accountable for teaching discrete skills. This problem requires leadership, support, and time to address. Examining one's assumptions honestly and forthrightly, in a supportive group, often spurs educators to change.

2.4 Finding collaboration partners outside the classroom

When it comes to the community engagement, I'm really pleased to say that we involve the local community in school life on a regular basis. In this photo, for example, you can see two IT experts from the Nikola Tesla Ericsson company who came to our schools to talk about ICT in their company and how our students can get ready for the world of work. There have been a dozen workshops this spring that this company organized for our students at our school as well as on their premises. We also regulary invite native speakers of English and other languages to talk about their countries and people. In May we organized a walk around the school for school alumni, neighbours and friends of our school, entitled Jane's walk. Here's the video about it:

2.5 Collaboration Tools

I love tools. I love exploring new tools. I'm subscribed to several excellent websites where new tools are presented and I'm sharing the links here. One day I might curate my own collection with collaboration tools.

One of my favourite tools is Blendspace. It is a simple and user-friendly tool for creating e-books, presentations and visual stories. Students can collaborate and give feedback to their peers.

2.6 P2P - Building your PBL Learning Design

for your reviews, Mariangela and Roberta. I greatly appreciate your help to make my project as successful as possible.

I'd like to conclude Module 2, with this great video by P21:

M3: Developing student-driven activities for PBL


I don't remember who told me that I couldn't draw, but I do remember that it was a long time ago. It made a deep impact on me in that I simply accepted it as a sad truth and from then on I never dared to draw. If someone asked me to draw something I would immediately start apologizing ( right now I came to realize that it's the same with dancing - if someone asks me to dance, the first thing I say is that I'm a lousy dancer! - and this is so completely totally utterly wrong!) and refrain from drawing. But then, last year I attended a webinar with Sylvia Duckworth about sketchnoting - visual note-taking. She said was that everyone could sketchnote and she showed us her first sketchnotes when she started six (only 6!) months ago! What a huge difference there was between her beginnings and her mastery! And I gave it a try. I drew for hours on end in Adobe Draw and became better and better and here's one of my sketchnotes that I made: 10 reasons why join eTwinning. And it made me more confident and more daring to draw! So just ask me to draw something for you and I won't apologize. I'll do it with pleasure.

3.1 Scaffolding for Student Ownership and Independence

"Students should jump into the deep end and learn through their failures. Providing them too much support makes them dependent."

I strongly believe that we should let students jump into the deep. We should give them space to discover and create new products and new knowledge. In the 21st century workplaces, people are expected to work with minimal supervision, which requires them to plan their own work and monitor and evaluate its quality. These are the qualities that describe self-regulated or self-directed learners. Effective self-regulated learning starts with learner autonomy. When students are given detailed instructions and timelines, they do not have the opportunity to plan their own work. Teachers can foster self-regulation skills by giving students responsibility for deciding how they will: divide their work among themselves, plan their work, create a schedule and set interim deadlines and accomplish their tasks.

In the video Facilitating Learning in a Student-Driven Environment there are some recommendations we should keep in mind when designing our lessons:

  • Give students voice and choice in the process
  • Let students seek answers and generate new questions
  • Make time for reflection and revision
  • Have students track their own progress

When I first started teaching (long, long time ago) the headteacher showed me round the school. We would stop at the doors of some classrooms just to hear what was going on inside. We could hear absolutely nothing, just silence. So the headteacher told me: "These are good teachers, they know how to maintain discipline in the classroom." This stuck with me for years to come. And made me feel uncomfortable and uneasy because I've never managed to maintain total silence in my classroom. What's more, whenever my students would quiet down, I'd feel somehow alarmed and I'd always ask them what was going on. After many many years of teaching and researching how students learn best, I finally feel at ease in my classroom knowing that noise doesn't mean that no learning is taking place in the classroom. Quite to the contrary, I know that my students are actively engaged in their learning. Noise is welcome in my classroom (chaos isn't :-).

3.2 Developing Student Resilience

I did the quiz: How resilient are you? and this is my result: "You have some resilience, but could develop more. It appears that you have a lot going for you already – several of your answers indicated a sense of resilience, but there's room for improvement. You can build your own inner and outer resources to make yourself more resilient in the face of stress." Yes, I suppose I should work more on building resilience! Too often I lack self-confindence. I definitely need to learn how to build it.

I find the video below great for boosting confidence:

1. Try a quick fix.2. Believe in your ability to improve. 3. Practise failure.

3.3 An Entrepreneurial Mindset

I strongly believe it is very important to develop an entrepreneurial mindset with our students. I think schools are still mainly traditional and educate young people to be employees, not entrepreneurs. That is the main reason why my PBL is focused on students as young entrepreneurs. They have to create a marketing campaign for their start-up.

There are some excellent resources on how to build an entrepreneurial mindset in this Thinglink created by Kornelia Lohynova:

To build an entrepreneurial mindset, we need to:
  • Be persistent
  • Have a strong need to achieve a personal accomplishment
  • Be courageous and don't mind failure
  • Think outside the box
  • Be passionate
  • Be creative and innovative
  • Foster curiosity
  • Be self-confident and self-reliant
  • Be hardworking and a lifelong learner
  • Have a positive attitude

Another great video on what is GRIT was shared by Grazia Paladino:

3.4 Webinar : Developing Entrepreneurial Skills

I am lucky to have had a chance to connect with Kornelia Lohynova several years ago. I attended her excellent learning event on Entrepreneurship and I learned a lot.

With Kornelia at the eTwinning Ambassadors Conference in Latvia, 2015
Design Thinking For Educators

I'm a member of the Teachers Guild, "a professional community that activates teachers’ creativity to solve the biggest challenges in education today. While learning and doing design thinking, teachers build their creative muscle and connect to diverse partner organizations who are committed to bringing their solutions to life. It’s an initiative run by a team of educators and designers from IDEO’s Design for Learning Studio and PLUSSED at Riverdale Country School. The Guild uses the Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit, and the mindsets of being human-centered, optimistic, collaborative, and experimental, to guide the problem solving process."

Download the Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit here:

Every Teacher Is A Designer

Design Thinking For Educators Toolkit

3.5 P2P - Building your PBL Learning Design

is a work in progress

Thank you for your feedback and support, Madalena and Giuliana. I greatly appreciate it.

3.7 Apply for Next Week's Teachmeet

Of course I applied for the Teachmeet. I would never miss it. Bart and I designed and hosted our first in the series of incredibly successful online teachmeets back in 2011. 22 presenters from 6 continents shared their projects, ideas and experiences with a global audience who all gathered online to be part of this amazing event.

To sum up Module 3, I'm sharing this excellent visual: Success Is An Iceberg.

M4: Assessing PBL

Introduction: My Assessment Context

In Croatian schools only the final examination (= Matura) in secondary school is standardized. The Matura also serves as the unversity entrance exam. In all other classes there is a strict testing schedule that teachers need to follow, but teachers can prepare their own tests and they can also decide when the students will take their test, usually after the end of the module. The number of tests is also prescribed, but it differs from subject to subject. For example, language teachers need to give students one writing essay and two grammar/vocabulary/reading or listening comprehension tests per semester. We also need to examine our students orally, at least once in semester. I usually ask them to prepare a presentation. I always give them a rubric, because I want them to know what I will assess so they can prepare accordingly. All the teachers in the language department decide together when it comes to assessment because so that students are equally assessed, regardless of who their teacher is.

4.1 Teachmeet

There were 18 presenters at the TeachMeet talking about different PBL-realted topics.

Photo by Liza Seagull. Used with permission.
TeachMeet Recording
My TeachMeet Presentation

4.2 Embedding Assessment into PBL

Examples of Formative Assessment

Summative assessment refers to the assessment of learning: students take an exam which measures the knowledge they gained over a particular period of time and for which students will be graded. Formative assessment, on the other hand, represents diagnostic testing which can be either formal or informal, i.e. students can but don't have to be graded for the learning activity. What matters is that both students and teachers receive valuable feedback. This enables them to keep track of student progress and to monitor student achievement. Feedback shows if students have mastered a concept or they still need to work on it. It also gives teachers an insight into their teaching and shows if they have to modify their activities.

Constant feedback on student performance is crucial for students to enhance their learning. By reflecting on their learning they become aware of their weaknesses and work harder for improvement. If students are assessed in this way, they will not be able to tell whether they are being taught or assessed. Learning will no longer be stressful, but enjoyable and fun. Good assessment tools help teachers to engage students in their learning. If learners are engaged, they become responsible for their learning. They become the owners of their learning and are encouraged to reflect upon their learning.

The West Virginia Department of Education has compiled a useful list of examples of formative assessment, such as observations, questioning, discussions, exit or admit slips (written responses to questons the teacher poses at the end or beginning of a lesson to assess student understanding of key concepts), learning logs (students' reflections on the material they are learning), response logs (students compose their thoughts about a concept), graphic organizers (e.g. mind maps, charts and diagrams), peer/self-assessment, practice presentations and many more.

3-2-1- activity
  • 3 things I learned today
  • 2 things I found interesting
  • 1 question I still have
Differences between formative and summative assessment

Maria Vasilopoulou has shared some great resources that helped me understand the differences between these two types of assessment.

In the figure below, the authors of the latter paper claim that assessment is only one part of the process, followed by evaluation and decision-making. The results of the assessment (pre-tests, examinations, observations, essays, self-reflections) are evaluated based on judgment of those data. The decision-making process refers to designing ways to improve the recognized weaknesses, gaps or deficiencies.

by Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center

The authors suggest there are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative and summative. I think diagnostic and formative are one and the same thing, but according to the authors, diagnostic assessment can help you identify your students’ current knowledge of a subject, their skill sets and capabilities, and to clarify misconceptions before teaching takes place.  Here are the examples they give for each of these three types:

Types of Diagnostic Assessments

  •  Pre-tests(on content and abilities)
  • Self-assessments (identifying skills and competencies)
  •  Discussion board responses (on content-specific prompts)
  •  Interviews (brief, private, 10-minute interview of each student)

Types of Formative Assessment

  • Observations during in-class activities; of students non-verbal feedback during lecture
  • Homework exercises as review for exams and class discussions
  • Reflection journals that are reviewed periodically during the semester
  • Question and answer sessions, both formal - planned and informal - spontaneous
  •  Conferences between the instructor and student at various points in the semester
  •  In-class activities where students informally present their results
  • Student feedback collected by periodically answering specific questions about the instruction and their self-evaluation of performance and progress

Types of Summative Assessment

  • Examinations (major, high-stakes exams)
  •  Final examination (a truly summative assessment)
  •  Term papers (drafts submitted throughout the semester would be a formative assessment)
  •  Projects (project phases submitted at various completion points could be formatively assessed)
  •  Portfolios (could also be assessed during it’s development as a formative assessment)
  •  Performances
  •  Student evaluation of the course (teaching effectiveness)
  •  Instructor self-evaluation

4.3 Peer Assessment for PBL

There is a difference between peer grading and peer assessment. Peer grading means that students give each other grades. This can be risky because it may lead to negative attitudes towards assessment. Peer assessment on the other hand refers to giving feedback in order to improve student's work. Peer assessment is formative. More about peer assessment can be found in this excellent publication by Georgia Brook and Heidi Andrade.

The authors recommend that we can teach students to assess each other by using the Ladder of Feedback.

This is what the authors suggest: The Ladder of Feedback is a good tool to help promote effective peer feedback between students. It involves four steps. It is sometimes helpful to have one group member “police” the ladder to make sure the rungs are climbed in order. After a student shares a work-in-progress with peers, his peers will:

1. Ask clarifying questions they have about the work. Some ideas may seem unclear, or information may be missing. This step helps peers gather relevant information before they give feedback.

2. State what they value, or comment on the strengths of the work. Expressing appreciation for ideas is fundamental to the process of constructive feedback. Stressing the positive points of the work sets a supportive tone during the feedback session, and helps people to identify strengths in their work they might not have recognized otherwise.

3. Raise any concerns they may have about the work. During this step, honest thoughts and concerns are raised in a constructive, non-threatening way. “What I wonder about is . . .” and “Have you considered . . .” are examples of how concerns may be framed.

4. Make suggestions about how the work could be improved. Give suggestions, based on problems identi ed in the concerns step, that can help the student use the feedback to revise his work and make improvements. There is no guarantee the learner will use the suggestions, nor need there be a guarantee. Suggestions are just that—suggestions, not mandates.

4.4 Creating & Using Rubrics for PBL Assessment

When students are given assessment criteria in advance, they know exactly what is expected of them and how they can improve. They can clearly see what their weaknesses are and what they can do to successfully complete the task and to achieve the expected results. Rubrics provide students with the possibility for reflection and self- and peer assessment and at the same time they provide teachers with an objective method for assessing student performance.

Here is an excellent Online Tutorial for creating rubrics, which was made by the University of Colorado. The tutorial provides several examples of rubrics and a list of resources for further learning. The Tutorial gives insight into:

  • -what rubrics are and how they can benefit you and your students,
  • assessment concepts that relate to rubrics,
  • how to create a rubric and
  • how to judge the quality of the rubrics you create.

Here's the link to my rubric made with Rubistar. What is assessed are collaborative work skills.

4.6 Extra Webinar 5th July - Flip Your Students' Role in PBL with María Jesús García San Martín

María Jesús García San Martín is Head of the Online Teacher Training and Social Networks Department at the National Institute for Educational Technologies and Teacher Training (INTEF) in the Spanish Ministry of Education. The webinar was excellent with a lot of useful ideas and tips. Here 's María Jesús' Blog with a lot of great resources.

María Jesús was so kind to share the summary of her webinar:


My Learning Designer

Thank you for your feedback, Dražena and Jesús Machado. I appreciate it.

The course officially lasts for another ten days, but I have completed every single task. It's been a fulfilling and inspiring four weeks of learning about project-based learning, of thinking and re-thinking my way of teaching, of creating my own PBL to be implemented in my classroom in the fall and most importantly, of connecting, exchanging experiences, thoughts and ideas and learning from and with the other participants. A huge thank you goes to the moderators of this course, Kornelia, Nair, Katerina, Bart and Ben, for making this MOOC as wonderful and as inspirational as possible.

Created By
Arjana Blazic


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