TaNuj^'s Weblog

Someone Please Get Me Back On Track

Posted on: June 4, 2009

Amendments have to be made for the sake of excelling. Project Based Learning has changed my life, my vision, and my thinking towards education, many students and teachers still argue whether this has been a good step in order to attain success. From my observation there are powerful arguments from both sides of the table, my personal believe is that no system is bad, it depends upon which better suits the student, each individual has different capabilities, different strengths/ weakness, different mindsets, and a different thought process. However the aspect that differentiates between an outstanding student and a good student is ability to cope and adapt to different scenarios, they may also include different methods of teaching. I have now experienced one and half years of PBL, it has become a part of my life, I have witnessed education revolutionize, yet there are many aspects that need to be improved. Many people that I have encountered say there isn’t such a word as ‘perfect’, I say the opposite, things could be perfected only if the correct practise has been put into place.

From a student’s viewpoint, many changes have to be made to the PBL system at my school in order to grasp the title of ‘perfection’. First thing on my hit list is that aspect of equity across the grade, this leads onto marks /ranking (teacher play an important role in this), expectations and content learning.

Marks, Ranking and Expectation

This is one topic that I reckon I have been harshly done by, not saying that I deserve more marks or a higher ranking, it’s just that others deserved less. Marks are something that tend to set a standard not only in class but grades. At the end of each exam or presentation students often wait eagerly to receive their marks, to see whether they have done themselves proud. Excelling ones own expectation tends to bring along a smile that lasts forever, similarly on the other hand by failing students are liable to be clocked by sheer embarrassment.

Different teachers have different mindsets, for example if the rubric states,” effectively analyse”, these two words might mean something totally different to you, as what it means to me. As a result one teacher might think the student has answered a question reasonably well and give him/her 100%, whilst the other teacher may think that the same student hasn’t answered the question well, and much rather issue him/her with only 60%. This inequality causes a lot of variation, slowly this builds up frustration within a student, until all the patience is lost.

This may also result in a greater scattering of student’s ranking across the subject. Let me take myself as an example, I’ am currently ranked 1st in my class for social studies, however I’am ranked 8th across the grade. I have seen the final end product that was produced by those students that are beating me in terms of ranking, not being biased my work was far more advanced , its  much more sophisticated and more complex, yet I sit on 8th position. WHY?… I’ am just one of the students, I feel sorry for all the other students who suffer from this sort of frustration, no matter how high I tend to jump, I’am still not able to reach the goal.

Content Learning

Whole purpose of school is to gain knowledge, information, and experience. Each and every teacher has a different method of teaching, some are more effective than others, the tools and resources hold a great meaning to this aspect. At times I seem to fall in the trap of insecurity about the content being passed onto me, it makes me wonder, am I learning the exact same thing in the same manner as other students in my grade are? Are all the students being provided the equal platform no matter which teacher they have? Have I been given as good understanding of a topic as other students from different classes?

How to get a student back on track?

Currently I have been lacking motivation and enthusiasm in my PBL classes (excluding CST/IST). Lately I have doing work from out of fear, not enjoyment. For many weeks now I have tried to figure out where might that spark come from, a spark that will ignite my engine, so I have found these solutions…

– Set bench mark/goal/expectation

– Create a feel of competition within classes

– Provide with better guidelines/pathway

– Build a healthy relationship between teacher and student

– Provide with more feedback

– Collaborate as a grade

– Try something new (computer software/ Internet websites)

I haven’t been enjoying my projects as such, they do not attract me, not even one bit. To be honest I don’t how or what will motivate me, I just have my finger crossed and search for answers, answer that will get me back on track. Who knows what might happen tomorrow, will I get motivated? Stay tuned for the answer…

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6 Responses to "Someone Please Get Me Back On Track"

Thank you Tanuj. It seems that you will provide us with an answer tomorrow as to whether you grow in motivation out of this current discontent. I am not sure I can inspire you, but I know you to be an inspiration. The way you developed as a learner last year – as someone so entirely dedicated to learning and positive learning experiences, it’s difficult for me to see you in this current situation.

In your blog, you highlight the frustration of discrepancies between marks and between general class room practice. You are correct. We all vary in our teaching and learning methods but at the time we need to ensure we are catering for all of students. We also need to ensure that a particular standard is achieved, so consistency is maintained across classes. In relation to marking, maybe we could remedy this by teachers sharing samples to ensure we have marked according to the rubric and that our ‘comprehensive and sophisticated’ are equal across the board.

I think that you should be included in the collaborative process between teachers when the different teams are planning projects. I know your contributions have been invaluable to me and I do hope you are motivated to read To Kill A Mockingbird and be actively involved in our next Social Studies project.

[…] Someone Please Get Me Back On Track « TaNuj^’s Weblog – Annotated […]

Tanuj. I was very glad to read your thoughts and opinions about PBL, especially as I am one of your teachers. You are correct in saying that there are some inconsistencies across classes yet when I think about non PBL classes, the same inconsistencies can occur. Maybe removing some of the “airy fairy” language in our rubrics might enable a higher level of consistency between classes?

I am intrigued however as to why CathTECH is motivating you at the moment, over other classes. I would love to find out more about your ideas in PBL so that we as teachers can light your inner spark and motivate you to succeed far beyond your own goals and dreams.

Tanuj, this once again a very mature and well presented blog, I really enjoyed reading it. Well you have motivated me in achieving perfection as this is something I often hide behind as the path we are going down often presents some intense challenges. I think every thing you have stated here is correct and feasible. I believe that the some of the as Mrs West put it “airy fairy” words need to be removed from rubrics but this is sometimes not always achieved. The more specific rubrics get especially for end products the bigger they get. Solution: Is to share samples of work to achieve some level of consistency. It makes me think about the HSC and that its main purpose is to moderate the differences in teacher marking across NSW (No other reason). For this can be it be perfect. I think we can make it better. But even in comparing samples there will still be some students who slip through the cracks. A perfect solution would involve all teachers marking each assignment. But then is this feasible.

Motivation is something that is effecting all involved – including teachers. I think all of us have set or are continuing to set such high benchmarks on our own learning. I know that I have never scrapped so many project ideas in the quest for something that is new and innovative and as always fits in the boundaries of the curriculum. (Ning – Done it, multimedia – Done it, Short projects, long projects – Done it). Does the quest for innovation ever stagnate?

Our goals as your teachers in PBL are to continuing to challenge and inspire you as a learner and if we are failing at this then our only option is to try harder and work smarter to achieve this goal.

Your voice is always appreciated. (This is probably a blog not a comment)

Thanks for your blog. It is an amazingly insightful read and I agree with many of the points you have raised about rubrics and marking. Rubrics that use phrases like ‘effectively analyse’ are too subjective and are not as helpful to learners as they appear to be.

I also like your list of ideas for ‘getting a student back on track’. The only one I would like to challenge is the idea of creating a climate in the classroom of competition. I think if you are a student who normally ‘wins’ or comes near the ‘top’ the idea of competition would probably be fun and possibly motivating. For the other students, especially those near the bottom, competition isn’t motivating at all.

I was thinking about this more today when I watched the presentations. I found myself wondering how different the presentations would have been if there was no ‘mark’ but instead each group received detailed feedback that included goals that could be developed and built upon in the next project. How different would it be if personal pride and a sense of achievement didn’t relate to a mark, but instead related to achieving your own personal learning goals. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Yeah certainly, I agree with your last part, more feedback provided the better improvements will be-I guess the term ‘interaction’ really plays an important role in this. With the idea of creating competition…groups have been created in way so that they usually contain 1 or 2 students who are good intellects, so if the teachers are to motivate those 1 or 2 student, eventually they will end up pushing those students who aren’t as smart…its sort of like putting more oil/ coal in a train’s engine, so its better able to carry all the carriages- if it makes sense…thanks for your feedback Melissa, greatly appreciated

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