6 April 2013

Critical Thinking in the Classroom

Collaboration & Critical Thinking

For the penultimate assignment of my PBLU Project-Based Learning Teaching Certification capstone project, The Octopus's Garden (see my Project Based Learning Journal for all posts relating to this course), I had to reflect on the collaboration and critical thinking that I had fostered and measured in the project.

In the first phase of the project, we spent a lot of time reworking the bie.org collaboration rubric so that it became our own as team work was identified in the Need to Know as something important that the learners wanted to work on. 

Learners were given blown-up copies of the rubric and sent off in groups to rework it by adding or amending as they felt appropriate, with the intention of bringing all the suggestions together to create a new personalised and co-constructed rubric.

Learners showed excellent critical thinking skills by indepently researching behaviours on the Internet for specific skills. For example, they looked up what behaviours a ‘communicator’ may display and listed them. They also used the IB learner profile to match these behaviours up with their findings and so embed the school culture into the rubric. 

Here are some photos of their rubrics, which I sifted through and combined to create our own Team-Work Rubric - where you can see how the behaviours learners were expected to display became part of the expectations of the rubric and therefore the project.

Co-constructing Rubrics
Co-constructing Rubrics
Co-constructing Rubrics

To ensure that this thinking and these behaviours became embedded, weekly peer assessments were submitted based on this rubric, and final reflections were completed based on this feedback (as outlined in ‘After Student Reflections’). I think perhaps a short weekly blog may have helped them to internalise their thinking more and document the learning they did each week, in the same way I try to journal my thinking throughout the week to embed current learning into my practice.

Below are some examples of one Project Manager’s self- and peer-assessment based on the co-constructed rubric.
Peer Evaluation
Peer Evaluation
In addition, learners reflected on their team presentations and from this, decided on the final presentation. They evaluated the way the presentations had gone based on feedback, how they worked together and how they thought the final phase of the project should go - down to team rearrangement, presentation method, amount of design, roles etc. Here are some examples of their reflections:

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Example 4
Daily Work Log
Having decided on creating ONE presentation, we used a Management Log along with team daily work logs (see image above) to keep track of who was doing what on the presentation and the script.

Reflection blog posts were scheduled as often as possible but sometimes, as the project was so demanding, this was more difficult. More opportunities for self-assessment and more reflection would be useful to ensure critical thinking becomes a culture of learning.

As rubrics are co-constructed and blogs are used, the whole evaluation process is very open and learners have plenty of say in what happens, how they are assessed and what they are assessed on.

The final report writing built on the Recount Writing they completed as a formative assessment for this part of the project. The learners completed shows explicit critical thinking in terms of evaluating the sources they used, the surveys they designed and collected, as well as the learning and skills they developed over the course of the project (as outlined in more detail in ‘After Student Reflections’).

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

As mentioned in previous assignments, LS and ELS were included in the design and implementation of team-work in this project. They both worked with this group of learners last year, and have commented often and profusely about the huge change in the way these learners work with each other, the way they behave and the way they now work as a team. Examples of this are the display and the assembly, put together respectively, in five days and one day, collaboratively. Rather than complaining that they were given no time, they problem solved a way to work together in the time

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