EdTech 542 Reflection

I’m not certain exactly what I expected to learn in this course, after recently starting the program again after 8 years. The last 3 courses I took in Spring 2016, focused on What EdTech is about and using technology, ie: using various software and Weebly to create lessons & pages, etc. I guess I expected this class to be similar to those, but after completing this course, I now know much more than I thought I did about lesson building and how important it is to allow students choice and voice.

In addition, I believe that I have learned why it is so important to teach students about higher thinking skills, rather than memorization. Deep down, I have always known that, but I haven’t gotten the chance to apply it yet, being that I just retired from the Army last year, after a long 18 years of rucksack fun. I hope that within a year or two, I will be able to put my knowledge to work and reach out to those students who need extra help or those looking for a challenge, and honestly, everyone in between.

Post-project Reflection

The culminating event is over, the project presentations have been presented, groups and peers have been evaluated, reflection journals are in. Is the PBL experience really over? Absolutely not. One of the most powerful forms of assessment and project evaluation is the post-project reflection. Use the resources from this week to assist you as you think about how you intend to debrief your PBL experience (Dr. Baek, EdTech 542).

Assessing a project based lesson is very important, because if that does not occur, the same project would become mundane to the teacher using it and therefore expired and uninteresting to the subsequent students completing it. Additionally, times change! Therefore, documents, links, ideas and resources need to be updated, along with rubrics,m standards and Formative & Summative assessments.

To really assess the project, I believe that peer educators should take part in the lesson’s entry event and be provided background.  Then, they should periodically view the project during the process, taking notes, to better help the teacher understand what they really thought and observed. In addition, they should be brutally honest, where constructive criticism should be taken as such and used to improve upon the lesson, time after time.


From Teacher to Facilitator

Within a project based lesson, roles for the teacher and learner differ than a typical one-hour lesson in Mathematics, for example.  I believe that my role as a teacher would change from teacher to facilitator, which would imply that the student’s role would also change, from passive learner to a student taking responsibility of what he or she wants to learn and how they learn it.

Effective facilitation provides the best benefit for implementing a project based lesson, because the facilitator must ensure that students have the skills they need to complete their tasks, understand the instructions and timeline, stay on task and understand what their final project and formative assessments are graded upon, etc.  An effective facilitator understands what is expected of him or her and constantly checks in with the student groups, observing, asking questions and offering assistance.

I believe that if the facilitator and the students both take responsibility for their roles, the students will develop the skills and competencies needed to become a successful individual, and the teacher will develop his or her skills as a facilitator, providing effective project based lessons to students and advice to his or her peers.

Scaffolding in PBL

According to John Larmer, editor in chief of BIE, scaffolding was defined as “a process in which teachers model or demonstrate the problem-solving process, then step back and offer support as needed”(2016).  This is essentially a differentiated learning process where teachers provide the students with “lessons, modeling, coaching, workshops, tools, or any other resources they might need” (2016).

In addition, McKenzie states that, There are 8 characteristics of scaffolding, including, (1) Clear directions (2) Clarity of purpose (3) Students staying on task (4) Assessments clarify expectations (5) Students pointed to good sources (6) Reduces uncertainty, surprise & disappointment (7) Efficient and (8) Creates momentum (1999).

Scaffolding in PBL is essential, because it allows the students to first learn about the problem/project or why it matters, and create questions like, “What can we do to fix it and how?”, supplemented with teacher insight or materials, and finally, leading to original and creative solution(s) by the students.

I plan to address scaffolding throughout my PBL, by:

  • ensuring students understand appropriate core skills & standards prior to the PBL, ensuring they are prepared
  • providing clear guidelines & an entry event that sparks motivation among the students
  • establishing a realistic timeline with the class & “checkpoints”
  • discussing & providing rubrics with the class, allowing for feedback and/or alterations
  • discussing & providing access to project examples, concept maps, applicable websites, writing, presentation & organization tools
  • regularly reviewing group work and individual student writing journals, providing constructive criticism
  • allowing feedback from each group to address questions or issues
  • providing a safe environment where students can collaborate w/o fear of reprisal or embarrassment


Effective Assessment

According to the resources provided this week, effective Project Based Learning assessments are considered “progressive,  rigorous, and accountable”.   Meaning that there is no final test for a few small lessons within a project based lesson, where knowledge gained by the student is lost after an exam, but where each activity builds upon the previous, leading to more in-depth knowledge that will not easily be forgotten.  Additionally, as an educator, you should ask yourself, “How will I know?”.  How will I know the students understand and can apply what they have learned to real life scenarios and what can I do to make that happen.

During my project based lesson, I will be focusing on the How-To of Community Garden Plots with 3rd grade Math students, resulting in professional presentations provided by each group to the class and also a new school garden, that is created, managed and shared with the community.  This lesson is progressive in nature, where each activity builds upon the previous.  It is rigorous in nature, including cross curriculum subjects like Math, Science, ELA, ISTE & 21st Century life skills.  Also, students will follow a specific timeline for the lesson, completing activities and assessments throughout, which are relevant to real-life scenarios.


  • Markham, thom. (2011). Education trends: Strategies for embedding project-based learning into STEM education. San Rafael, CA: Edutopia.
  • School of the Future. (2011). Schools that work: What is authentic assesment? San Rafael, CA: Edutopia.
  • 4teachers. (2009). Project based learning: Involving students in checklist creation. University of Kansas: ALTEC.
  • PBL in the Elementary Grades: Developing a Balanced Assessment Plan pp. 47-52; Using Formative Assessment & Setting Checkpoints pp. 104-107; Rubrics for Assessing Presentations & Collaboration pp. 132-135.
  • PBL Starter Kit: Summative Assessment: Culminating Projects pp. 46-49; Formative Assessment pp. 59-60; Rubrics pp. 60-62; Collaboration & Presentation Rubrics pp. 124-125

Driving Question: Reflection

This week involved much reading, reviewing, updating and planning of my PBL lesson: Garden Plots.  This week’s assignment was to create a “Driving Question” and 10 sub questions, along with describing in the forum, characteristics of a quality driving question and explaining how my driving question meets those criteria. Additionally, I broke down each sub question to further explain how an entire unit, using more than Math core standards, can be created around my driving question.

My driving question is: 

How many fruits & vegetables can be grown in a community garden plot?

My 10 sub questions & further details: 

  1. What types of fruits & vegetables do we eat the most?: Students decide which plants they consume regularly, based on the area they live in. This could vary, depending on the area’s culture, type of foods eaten and access to fruits & vegetables.
  2. How are seeds obtained?: Students will research the process of growing plants to obtain them for a garden, along with the characteristics of each plant’s seeds and its identification. (not including simply purchasing at the store….)
  3. How long does it take to grow these plants?: Students will research plant germination to harvest time, based on each type of plant and its characteristics and where and how they’re planted.
  4. How and when do we harvest these plants?: Students will determine when they will harvest their fruits & vegetables and how to do so, not affecting other growing plants, and how to keep their fruits & vegetables from rotting or going to waste, ie: canning, farmer’s markets, donating.
  5. What nutrients do these plants require to grow?: Students will research required growing conditions and nutrients needed, applying those nutrients to their garden, in the form of fertilizer or UAV, etc.This could also branch off to conduct experiments or hypotheses, comparing different growing conditions for similar plants to determine what works best and why…
  6. How much area does each plant need to grow?: Students will research the area each type of plant needs to grow, without affecting other plants in the garden.
  7. What is needed to grow these plants in a community garden plot?: Students will research and determine the basis of a community garden plot and what is needed to create and manage one.
  8. Which of these plants can we grow in a community garden plot?: Based on the above answered sub questions, students will research, collaborate and determine the contents of their garden plot.
  9. What measurement tools and formulas will you use to determine the overall perimeter, area and boundaries for each family’s plot?: Students will apply mathematical formulas for perimeter and  area to later, equally divide their garden plot, based on sub-Q #10.
  10. With the community requiring at least 12 separate plots for 12 families, how much area does each family require if they grow 2 of each regularly eaten plants that we identified in Q5?: Students will apply their knowledge thus far to find the answer to this question, and finally, present their findings to the class in a professional manner.

PBL Research

gardenAs I searched for PBL involving elementary Mathematics, I found that there were many lessons available for older students, and some lessons didn’t include technology.  Overall, I believe there are probably thousands of PBL out there, but that would take many hours to research.


Being that I am not teaching currently, just retiring from the Army after 18 years, I believe that my teaching style would allow me to effectively complete PBL in my classroom. I enjoy getting to know an understand students, de-conflicting possible student differences and including everyone in group work, so no one “gets off easy”.

I will adapt a garden plot PBL that I found on Teach21 for my EdTech 542 Project this first 7 week summer semester at BSU. I believe that it is important to understand how our food is grown, cared for and harvested, and this is an important life skill that everyone should learn about and understand so they can grow their own food or apply this knowledge to their future careers.

Project Based Lesson Forms:



Student Learning Guide


What is Project Based Learning?

Group 1: What is Project Based Learning?

(1) Define Project Based Learning. Describe the difference between Project Based Learning and Problem Based Learning.

According to Edutopia, “Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying” (2016).  Essentially, PBL provides students the opportunity to discover or explore real world issues and work with their peers to solve them. Students are more motivated, confident and earn deeper knowledge; more than they would by just recieving information to memorize and a final exam.

Project Based Learning occurs when a teacher provides a topic for the students to research, resulting in a product, whereas Problem Based Learning, a forerunner of PBL, applies when students discover a problem that they want to solve, such as: How can we promote recycling to reduce the amount of refuse in landfills, oceans and in our drinking water? Students could then discuss this problem as a class, with the teacher, within their groups, among groups from other classes or schools, etc. to solve this problem. The final result: Problem solving strategies applied, deeper knowledge understood, confident communication and effective collaboration with peers, and finally, a thorough and professional final presentation (BIE, 2010 & Johnson and Lamb, 2007).

Problem-based learning originated among medical school interns, but has been applied to mathematics and science instruction among school-aged students.  According to Thomas, “Much of this research has emanated from the Center for Problem Based Learning at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, Illinois where the faculty have developed a one-semester problem-based course entitled Science, Society, and the Future focused on “unresolved science-related social issues” (2000).

(2) Why should teachers consider incorporating PBL in their classroom?

Project Based Learning is an upgrade to the traditional teaching style, where students would receive information about a particular topic, complete pen & paper assignments and finally, complete an exam. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a student who receives 100% on their exam will remember this information the next day, nor will they understand the ins and outs of the topic and be able to apply it within the real world. PBL provides students the benefit of actively solving problems that are engaging and complex.  Students communicate more effectively with each other, collaborate to find common ground and engage their critical thinking skills (BIE, 2010).

Using PBL in the classroom puts students on a path that leads to deeper thought processes, ultimately leading to retention of knowledge and success in their futures.  Teachers should apply this model into their classroom curriculum, for example:

  • Divide students into 3-4 student groups, depending on class size, time available and topic
  • Provide a project idea, problem or range of ideas for the students to research and present
  • Students will discuss the project or problem as a class, with the teacher, and among their peer groups
  • Students will strategize how they will conduct research, when to collaborate with peer groups and what their final presentation or problem solving ideas will look like
  • After an appropriate amount of time, depending on the problem or project, students will receive feedback from their teacher and peers
  • Last, students would present their work, professionally to their class, school or parents… (Vega, 2015).

(3) What are the essential components of a PBL approach to instruction?

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) provides a PBL checklist for teachers, which includes 8 essential elements. Applying these elements to the curriculum, along with core standards and collaboration with fellow educators, provides students with a learning platform that is not only meaningful, but also motivating for the students to do their best, while acting as an investigator on an engaging topic (2010).

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding & Success Skills: The project is focused on teaching students key knowledge and understanding derived from standards, and success skills including critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  • Challenging Problem or Question: The project is based on a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge for students, which is operationalized by an open-ended, engaging driving question.
  • Sustained Inquiry: The project involves an active, in-depth process over time, in which students generate questions, find and use resources, ask further questions, and develop their own answers.
  • Authenticity: The project has a real-world context, uses real-world processes, tools, and quality standards, makes a real impact, and/or is connected to students’ own concerns, interests, and identities.
  • Student Voice & Choice: The project allows students to make some choices about the products they create, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on their age and PBL experience.
  • Reflection: The project provides opportunities for students to reflect on what and how they are learning, and on the project’s design and implementation.
  • Critique & Revision: The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on their work, in order to revise their ideas and products or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Product: The project requires students to demonstrate what they learn by creating a product that is presented or offered to people beyond the classroom.


Buck Institute for Education. (2010). Introduction to Project Based Learning. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.

Buck Institute for Education. (2010). Project Based Learning: Explained.Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.

Edutopia. (2016). STEAM + project-based learning: Real solutions from driving questions. Atlanta, GA: George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Johnson, L. and Lamb, A. (2007). Project, problem, and inquiry-based learning. Teacher Tap.

Thomas, J.W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. San Rafael, CA: The Autodesk Foundation.

Vega, Vanessa. (2015). Project-based learning research review. San Rafael, CA: Edutopia.