Saturday, 27 February 2016 01:59

The Awesomeness of Problem-Based Learning (Part 6) Featured

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    In last week's post, I mentioned that my each of my students took an online strength assessment at Thrively.com and received a detailed summary of the results that was 100% positive and motivating. I first incorporated the results of this strength profile into my instruction during the Community Resource Project, a problem-based learning unit that was part of our science curriculum. (To review, Thrively is a free website for teachers and parents that’s designed to help children discover their interests and passions, personalize the learning process, and maximize their amazing potential. Over the past few months, I have been collaborating with the founder of the company due to our mutual interest in strength-based education and teaching the whole child.)
    After my students took this online strength profile, my original plan was to meet individually with each child to discuss the results and determine the different ways we could incorporate the identified strengths into our daily learning and try to develop them further. Our daily independent reading period is the only consistent time I have to confer with the kids, but I knew I needed to devote the next two weeks of conferring time to conducting one-on-one reading assessments.  
    Rather than wait, I decided to hold these conversations while the children were working on the Community Resource Project. Instead of meeting with each individual child, I met with each group. I thought this decision would allow me to go over the strength profiles in a manner that was more efficient and that wouldn’t take too much time away from each group’s work.
    An unexpected benefit of this decision soon surfaced that was far more important than efficiency.
    After first gaining each child’s consent to share the assessment results with their partner present, I read the write-ups aloud as all group members listened. I quickly realized that it’s one thing for children to hear their teacher describing their strengths. It’s quite another for children to hear their teacher describing their strengths while peers listened to the entire conversation.
     Presenting the write-ups to a whole group, as opposed to individual children, changed the dynamic significantly and took what otherwise would have been a private moment and transformed the occasion into an event in which students felt as if they were in the spotlight, gaining attention for something that was 100% positive and gaining validation and respect for the skills and attributes they brought to the group. This was especially valuable for students who may have never before received this type of recognition. The self-esteem boost was incredible.
    From now on, every time my students begin a group project with new partners, I plan to review the strength profiles in this way to get the team off to a great start.  
     Next time, I will share another significant benefit of using Thrively in the classroom: helping each group perform more effectively.
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