It seems counter-intuitive to begin designing projects that are student-focused, engaging to students, meet students where they are and push them just far enough into that ZPD, personalized to individual students…projects designed for students, to begin designing these projects with a focus on the teacher. There are mounds of research that support this, however, including the oft-cited research on student learning presented by John Hattie. Look at the top, most essential elements for impactful student learning:
- Teacher Estimates of Achievement (Do we, teachers, believe in our students?)
- Collective Teacher Efficacy (Do we, teachers, believe in each other?)
- Self-Reported Grades (Do we, teachers, believe students can and should assess their own learning? Do we provide those opportunities?)
- Piagetian Programs (Do we, teachers, understand our students’ development and meet them where they are?)
As we continue down the list, it becomes increasingly clear – the teacher’s actions greatly impact student learning.
The 2nd step in my project design process is to revisit my own role. Now what is it I do again?
It sounds ridiculous, but yes, 10 years into teaching, I still have to pause when I’m thinking of designing a project and remind myself what exactly it is that I’m supposed to be doing. Wait, am a wellness coach? Career counselor? Curriculum designer? Performer? Edible landscaper? Ecologist? Artist? A data-entry bot? Top-secret half-Mexican equity-agent? Personal trainer/nutrition advisor/guardian from drugs-and-alcohol?
I may dabble in all of those things as a teacher, but when I clean it all up and focus in on my job, my role as an impactful PBL teacher is best summarized as a respectful and present cultivator of student learning.