My Learning Diary-PBL course 2016 by Eurydice Gkori

Introducing Project-Based Learning in your Classroom

About me

I am an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher currently teaching in a Junior High School in Veria, Greece. I've been active for more than 20 years in various schools, grades and contexts. I have been involved with eTwinning projects since 2012.

teaching context

5ο Γυμνάσιο Βέροιας

My school is in Veria, a busy urban environment. However it is not fully equipped in terms of ICT (less than half of the classrooms have an internet connection, projectors and/ or a laptop and there's no wi-fi). Classroom layout is traditional. English classes are twice a week.

My students are 12-15 years old. Their level of English ranges between A1 and B1+.

Fingerprint Profiles

1. What is PBL and why use it

1.1 What is PBL

Difference between "doing projects" and PBL (by Amy Mayer)

1.2 Why use PBL

21st Century Skills need 21st century Teaching

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Collaboration
  • Use of Technology
  • Real world problems
  • Allow for student voice
  • Open to community and adult world
  • Engaging and motivating
  • Multifaceted assessment
  • Success skills for college, career, life

Why do you think PBL is not used more widely in our education systems?

  • Education systems are resistant to change (they are like dinosaurs: aged and cumbersome).
  • PBL needs a lot of planning (you have to really know what you are doing). This makes it time-consuming and daunting for teachers
  • PBL needs a like-minded and supportive school environment and collaboration among teachers (exchange of ideas and practices). Not always easy
  • PBL needs ICT equipment (not all schools have it)
  • Covering curriculum content is usually an obstacle towards taking up alternative approaches to teaching
  • Classroom size: is there an ideal? (with over 20 students in a class things can get very easily out of control)
  • Student motivation (how can we really involve them in the process of learning? Teenagers nowadays are so hard to please and lose interest very quickly)
  • Assessment (you cannot assess what students learn through PBL using traditional tests/exams. Sadly more often than not we end up preparing students for exams) . Policy makers and parents, are interested in "concrete", measurable, results, as well as success in exams
  • Teachers need motivation and guidance from within the system
Education system in Greece (we, teachers, are the baby dinosaurs...)

1.3 P2P - Reflections on our current teaching practice

  • Unfortunately my teaching tends to be traditional in that tasks and projects are presented by the teacher (following project work as a treat). Students do tend to get demotivated quite often as following the book syllabus is unavoidable. ICT equipment is scarce so we have to use the computer lab for our eTwinning projects for example (and that cannot happen as often as needed). PBL seems to be an intriguing but far fetched approach in the Greek education reality.
  • An 8th Grade class (age 13-14) of 24 students, with A2+ to B1 level of English (Intermediate).

1.4 Components of Good PBL

  • Real-World Connection
  • Core to Learning
  • Structured Collaboration
  • Student Driven
  • Multifaceted Assessment

1.5 The Driving Question

The need for a non-googable question

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?" Instead we need answers that can't be found on Google without "digging" deeply. eg "What was the most important cause of our city's growth?", "Why do people say You are what you eat?", "How can we improve our health through eating?", "Why didn't Daedalus' wings work?"

The question should be:

  • Open-ended
  • Engage and inspire students by creating curiosity
  • Aligned to the learning goals you would like to achieve.

1.6 P2P - Your PBL Design: Formulating your driving question

How can we make our school more student-friendly?

Vocabulary: buildings, school equipment, architecture, art, plants, gardening

Skills: speaking-listening: (interviews with teachers, students, architects and relevant professionals), reading-writing: (preparing and analysing questionnaires, keeping a learning diary, comparing with schools from other countries (if ideally made into an eTwinning project), digital skills, critical thinking, collaboration skills

Cross-curricular: possible connection with Maths, Design, Art, Botany

2. Developing effective collaboration for PBL

TEAM:Together Eeveryone Achieves More

2.2 What is effective collaboration?

"Collaboration does not just happen, it needs to be learned".

The Marshmallow Challenge

2.3 Effective Collaboration for PBL inside the Classroom

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

2.4 Finding collaboration partners outside the classroom

Involving the community: In typical classs projects I never thought of contacting any professionals, as our basic goals is to use English as a medium of communication. (Imagine Greeks speaking to Greeks in English?) However eTwinning projects give us the opportunity to use the target language naturally: We have to work and share with our partners. During an eTwinning project we thought of interviewing the Museum curator of Vergina about the Golden Larnax (an artifact supposedly "stolen" for the needs of our project). It didn't go as planned but I am definetely going to be reaching out more.

2.5 Collaboration Tools

2.6 P2P - Building your PBL Learning Design

3. Developing student-driven activities for PBL


"Getting students to develop grit and resilience to stay with a problem or project even though they have failed previously is one the most difficult parts of PBL"

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."

We cannot simply give students independence and hope they wil just take charge of the process. Students' ownership over the process needs to develop as part of PBL

  • careful planning
  • introduce topic so as to build curiosity
  • provide opportunities for the students to ask questions
  • make time for reflection and revision
  • engage in discussion with their peers
  • set clear learning targets
  • have students track their own progress

3.2 Developing Student Resilience

Resilience: comes from the Latin resilire, “to bounce back”. Resilience refers to the capacity to return to good mental health after challenging and difficult situations.

a combination of skills and attributes

  • solve problems
  • cope with challenges
  • adapt
  • bounce back when things don´t go as planned
  • learn from mistakes
  • look at failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth.

How do we as teachers weaken our student's confidence and independence? (Reverse brainstorming)

  • focusing on negative behaviour or weaknesses
  • not giving them space and time to express themselves
  • not challenging them enough or challenging them too much
  • talking and never listening
  • making comparisons
  • labelling, discriminating and not being fair to all
  • not having high expectations from them
  • not believing in them
  • not caring about their interests and focusing solely on the curriculum

3.3 An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneurship is not an Academic Discipline (like Economy, Management etc). It is a mindset

Schools should ideally support:

  • Leadership
  • Goal setting
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Planning and organising
  • Team working
  • Effective communication
  • Negotiating and influencing
  • Taking responsibility
  • Taking initiative
  • Financial cpability
  • How to be successful in running a small problem
  • Cooperation and involvement from local community/bussiness
  • a vision and a plan for entrepreneurial education

3.4 Webinar 22nd June, 18:30h: Developing Entrepreneurial Skills

Fail Often and Fail Early

We have to allow students to fail without taking marks off them for that

3.5 P2P - Building your PBL Learning Design

3.6 eTwinning Learning Event: How to Develop Resilience at School

Coming in September...

4. Assessing PBL

Assessment should be about "sitting beside someone", providing feedback and helping them to improve

The assessment system in Greek schools is standardised and it is mainly summative: for the final exams the format is given by the Ministry and has to be folllowed strictly. Students must also be formally assessed twice throughout the year using tests that have to follow the final exam format more or less. However teachers can further assess students' undertanding as they see fit.

4.1 Teachmeet - Mon 27th June 18:30h

4.2 Embedding Assessment into PBL

Assessment as part of PBL should not only come at the end but should be seen as a learning activity that is embedded throughout the PBL process.

4.3 Peer Assessment for PBL

4.4 Creating & Using Rubrics for PBL Assessment

Rubrics are grading tools that can be used for summative as well as formative assessment and they are also a very useful tool to help students with self- and peer assessment. While they can be used for grading, they should in fact be seen as a learning resource that is used by students throughout their work. Rubrics lend themselves especially well for PBL because they can capture a complex range of criteria in an organized and clear way.

4.5 P2P - Your PBL Learning Design

4.6 Extra Webinar 5th July - Flip Your Students' Role in PBL

Created By
Eurydice Gkori


Created with images by ariesa66 - "dino triceraptos play" • Eleaf - "Questioned Proposal"

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