PBL- Managing for Success: Goals, Checkpoints and Reflection on the way to New France
Imagine a research project for Grade Seven students called “The Governor’s Banquet,” which is intended to focus on life in New France in the 17th and 18th centuries. Canada and the United States did not yet exist, and much of North America was, in fact, French territory, ruled by the Governor appointed by the King of France.
Each group of students must research an aspect of life in New France, and, at a project end celebration, present to the class what they have learned about the culture, clothing, food, daily life, work, education, religion and government of the time. Of course, a celebration is not complete without food, and each group must bring one type of food that would have been popular during the time period.
The Buck Institute for Education sets out some excellent planning, implementation, completion, reflection and assessment tools on its website. Critical to the project planning are setting the goal, project checkpoints and project reflection.
Students need to understand that the goal is not the party at the end, but rather, the rich learning that comes from the research and collaboration that takes place. Students will need some tools to get them on track and organized. Using a Google document as a resource for communicating the project benchmarks, and as a shared research tool would be an excellent start for students of this age who are not yet familiar with more advanced tools, such as Wikis. Having a Google calendar as a timeline for the project, where each work period is mapped out in advance, will inform students of the checkpoints and the workplace (classroom, library, computer lab, as examples).
When goal setting, groups need to decide on the product, or artifact, they will present. Will it be a fashion show for presenting the clothing, a play which shows the role of religion or government, a model of a village in New France, a dance of the time period or a skit showing life for a child in school at the time? Checkpoints must include the appropriate markers- a script for a play, a design for a model, or a layout for a fashion show. There must also be time to pause and address group challenges as well as assess, both formally and informally the progress of the group and its individuals. The teacher could prepare a Google Form that would gather feedback from students about their own, as well as their peers’ success and areas needing improvement.
During the celebration, groups must contribute to the menu, both the planning of the making of the food but also the collaborative production of the menu on a Google Document. The day of the celebration is anticipated, as students share their food (with careful attention to food allergies and restrictions of course), and each presentation.
Finally, a final assessment and reflection of the Governor’s Banquet must be carefully and thoroughly completed, using a number of the excellent tools on the Buck Institute’s website. Having enlisted a small group to record the event in still photos or video will assist students in their own reflections of their performances.
To top it all off, near the end of the school year, students travel to Quebec City, the only walled city in North America, to experience life in French Canada in the present, as well as the past. Even today, the city is much like it was when it was founded in 1608. Because of this, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If only the trip could be done during the preparations for the Banquet, the learning that results would be even richer.
Making the learning of History an engaging, rich and productive learning experience through the use of Project Based Learning can and will make History come alive!