At Parramatta Marist High all teachers are required to undertake approximately 250 minutes of professional learning a fortnight. This includes weekly staff meetings, training sessions and fortnightly ‘Professional Learning Teams’ (PLT).
During PLT sessions teachers run through various leaning modules that cover a range of different areas including literacy strategies, PBL protocols and types of assessment. Being in a team of 4 or 5 teachers from different departments and roles is a fantastic way to hear opinions, techniques and perspectives that we wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. As a new teacher I find it really valuable to interact with more experienced teachers in a professional environment with the opportunity to ask questions and gain further insight.
As the Project Based Learning model is relatively new to Australian schools and a majority of new and existing teachers, PLT is an important time to familiarise ourselves with updated research, information and protocols. PBL is continuously changing and improving, never static. As teachers I think we need to constantly strive for best practice.
So far this year in PLT we have explored the following projects:
Term One– H.O.T Paragraphs
- HOT= Higher Order Thinking
How can we use data teams to analyse weaknesses in student writing and provide targeted interventions to improve their ability to compose well-constructed paragraphs?
During this ‘project’ each teacher identified a class they thought may need some additional attention when it came to literacy. Every fortnight these students would write a HOT paragraph based on a question related to their current project. These paragraphs follow a specific structure of topic sentence, supporting sentences and concluding sentence and the marking rubric reflects these requirements as well as focusing on correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Each fortnight these paragraphs were marked, feedback given and the results recorded on an Excel spreadsheet. These Excel spreadsheets allowed teachers to follow progress and design specific teaching strategies to address these needs. At the conclusion of the term each student had a corresponding graph displaying their results. Teachers investigated the impact of different literacy strategies, effectiveness of feedback and worked on setting personal SMART goals.
Term Two- PBL Assessment
How can assessment be used to improve student learning in a PBL classroom?
This project focused on different types of assessment and how they fit into the PBL process. As teachers we learnt about how to most effectively design, disseminate and conduct assessments to our students. Each ‘Focus’ module required a submission that demonstrated our understanding. For example, for Focus 1- Formative Assessment we had to upload an annotated copy of one of the formative tasks we had designed for our students, suggesting possible improvements and identifying positive aspects.
Term Three- Perfecting the PBL Processes
How can we better utilise Project and Problem Based Learning processes and structures to promote deeper learning in our students.
This project explored the numerous PBL processes and protocols already used in our classrooms. We looked at current research papers, listened to the views and opinions of our students and considered the best ways we can implement these processes in the future. There were four major processes we looked at including Knows and Need to Knows, Grouping Students, Benchmarks and Effective Group Management.