Maybe you tried project-based learning before and it was an epic fail. Maybe you have always wanted to try project-based learning but have been scared to try. Or you tried it in the past but got consumed with other things and haven’t implemented in a while. All of this is understandable and one we can relate to as teachers. A great way to begin your journey is to do a task with your students. Let’s talk about some key features and ways to do a task with students.
Tasks are a reduced form of a project. It is typically completed between 4 to 6 hours. Telannia was involved with a group of project-based learning experts including High Tech High, EL Education, and the New Tech Network to create a framework for high quality PBL. The framework identifies 6 components: Intellectual Challenge and Accomplishment, Authenticity, Public Product, Collaboration, Project Management and Reflection. Tasks include intellectual challenge and collaboration. Tasks can include a product but the product is often not public, meaning it does not go beyond the teacher or classroom. Let’s look at each of these features and how it plays out in a task.
Intellectual challenge and accomplishment is not fun activities or a hands-on experience that requires little intellectual effort. It is where students think critically about the mathematics to find a solution. In a task, students use prior mathematical knowledge to learn the new concepts. The intellectual challenge continues as students apply their understanding in a rich context. In the first grade task from our book, Project-Based Learning in the Math Classroom Grades K-2, students connected their knowledge of objects to the concept of measurement. The learning is deepened as students work to use this knowledge to write a story about a friend moving to a new house.
Given this high level of thinking, students work in collaboration with others to make sense of the concepts. Although individual work does occur, it is in service to collaboration. Collaboration works best when students bring their own initial thoughts and ideas to the discussion as they create a solution. In the ninth to tenth grade task from our Grades 6-10 book with the same title, students collaborate to improve each other’s work.
Doing Tasks With Students
This site offers free and paid tasks to help you get started with implementing tasks. The paid tasks offer extensive details including lessons for the entire implementation of the task and digital/paper handouts for students. This is to help you be successful as you start your journey. Here are other key tips to doing tasks with students:
- Model intellectual thinking
- Create norms for collaboration
- Use a problem solving method
- Ask a question rather than answer students questions