Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Uncovering a Truth: Hattie and PBL

As I've shared in previous blog entries, I've been struggling with the loss of PBL as my go-to approach. But in reading John Spencer's blog entry, I realize that I have committed a fatal mistake.

This blog entry is the first of several that bring me full circle. Come along and share your insights into my thinking, faulty as it may be.

Revisiting Hattie

Hattie's meta-analyses of what instructional strategies DO work provides some guidance, as does the work of recognized practitioners like Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. Be sure to watch their video below on balanced literacy. It provides some great insights.

Watching the video took me back over the years (a lot). It made me ask myself, "What should instruction look like in the classroom? Are we using strategies that work in classrooms today?" The video reminded me of my work in writing workshop BEFORE I ever knew of PBL approaches.

ReDiscovering My PBL Roots

As a PBL advocate, I realize now that my transition to the use of PBL was strictly for professional learning. I have never used it in the classroom with students.

[stunned silence]

There was that one time when working on HyperStudio, but PBL hadn't really taken off. I remember my guidance came from a write-up in The Computing Teacher (ha, that should take some of you back in time)students doing projects. I often spent my time reading that publication (which later became Learning and Leading with Technology). Reading something then trying it out with my students.
Until that first project, I had mostly used technology to augment my writing/reading workshop efforts (e.g. Nancy Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Toby Fulwiler, Marjorie Frank...you get the idea). Most of the time that I had students creating with technology, it was AFTER I had already engaged in what I understood to be direct instruction at the time.

I have so long advocated for PBL a la Bill Stepien (BIE Presenter back in the day) in the classroom, that I forgot I'd never used it with students. I first learned about it when working at the regional service center and remember wondering, "Where had this strategy been all my life?" Of course, I immediately challenged Bill Stepien with, "Why aren't you using technology with this PBL approach?" Working with adult learners, they were my first audience. I taught it both with and without technology. That has profound implications.

After studying andragogy and pedagogy, I made an assumption that students would do as well as adults with PBL.  Since I transitioned into administration after adopting PBL for use with professional learning, every experience I've had has supported PBL for use with adult learners.

But I failed to realize that my successful PBL experiences with adult learners were not the same as having that with K-12 learners. No doubt, the folks at PBL Works will have much to say about how well it works with K-12 learners.

Darn It, I Missed Something About My Own Work

Ok, I have to take a moment to process this. Since I adopted PBL for professional learning in 1999 (about the time I was sharing webquests with others) until my first article for TCEA's TechEdge magazine in 2003 ("Make the Connection: TAKS, PBL, and Technology"), I was hooked on PBL. But I was also no longer in a K-12 classroom. What a shocker to realize that my recommendations for PBL adoption have flowed from my experiences with adult learners.

Adult learners absolutely love the PBL experience because it gives them a lot of voice, choice and ownership over what they learn.

More importantly, they have a ton of background knowledge that prepares them for the many activities I make available as part of my PBL+Technology approaches.

Hattie and PBL

John Spencer clarifies how all the pieces fit together in this must-read blog entry, Direct Instruction is still Necessary in a PBL Classroom. I regret that I did not read John's blog entry sooner (like a month ago) since it would have saved me some anguish and soul searching. Still, amazingly, I came to the same conclusion right before I stumbled on his blog entry (the universe gives you what you need only when you need it, not a moment before).

Learn more about this
In his blog post, John Spencer says the following:

Direct instruction is necessary to build background knowledge and conceptual understanding...This is a key reason we still need direct instruction within PBL. According to John Hattie’s research, inquiry-based learning had only a .31 effect size on student learning. However, Hattie clarified that inquiry is still vital for learning. 
Inquiry-based and problem-based learning are ineffective in learning surface-level information. 
However, they are highly effective in learning deep information. Hattie argues that inquiry should occur after students have gained prior knowledge (Watch this video of John Hattie)
John Spencer goes on to write the following:
We can build this prior knowledge through direct instruction. It might involve an outline of core concepts or the front-loading of vocabulary. Often, it includes a concept attainment lesson. Note that concept attainment lessons don’t have to be long, drawn-out lectures with slide after slide of text. Some of the best concept attainment lessons are actually discussions, guided experiments, simulations, or game-based learning activities.
For me concept attainment translates as mini-lessons, a point Fisher and Frey made in their video. That is, a 10-15 minute lesson on how to use a skill. This is what I did with my 3rd, 5th and 6th grade students in writing workshop. When I consider my work with PBL with adult learners, I realize I filled in gaps showing how-to but I seldom spend time explaining how-to.

Wow. What a revelation.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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