Viking Boy Reflections (Positives (PBL fits in with many of our core…
Viking Boy Reflections
No control (control in a scientific sense!) - this is the first time we have taught Viking history, the first term of a new team working together, the first time with a three teacher model. Makes analytical reflection difficult; our judgement as teachers is valuable but we cannot definitively compare Project Based Learning to how this part of the curriculum has been taught before by this team.
Some of the reflections we have are not just applicable to PBL, but to our current whole school practice in general, e.g. establishing core expectations for a block of work, maintaining regular focus on this with PP children, a short assessment task to finish. Did these things happen because questions were being more closely asked of PBL, rather than a positive of the approach itself?
The primary challenge I foresee is the planning of whole school curriculum coverage in a model of constantly new and changing projects. Where are the compromises to be made in order to make this a working model? How do other schools working through Project approach this? AG to explain in more detail...
PBL fits in with many of our core approaches as a school
Tasks were inclusive, fits well with mixed attainment teaching model
Music formed an important part of the final product; good to see it can be used to complement other areas and not just standalone or be the main focus?.
Core book approach - Viking Boy was a high quality, high impact text
Very high impact in specific areas, e.g. reading - final product displayed high levels of attainment in most (all?) children; history - the depth of knowledge was huge and the focus allowed historical to also achieve good focus over the course of the half term
Memorable learning - some of the facts (because they were performed? DS) seem much more reliably committed to children's memories than by learning through whole class teaching.
Sense of purpose. Hard to quantify but this was very evident in the day to day classroom activity. When writing a newspaper article for no genuine purpose in the final week after the performance, it felt a bit empty and superficial.
Tracking progress of Pupil Premium children throughout
Simple assessment tasks at the end of the half term helped clarity of assessment against core learning for PP and all children
Established core expectations and knowledge which was returned to and monitored throughout.
Effective use of support staff in focusing on core knowledge for these children. Would this be helpful for the rest of the school?
Huge motivation, and attainment, particularly among some children who are not always engaged in the curriculum.
Conversely, this was a challenging way to work for some children who find do academic work accessible. They were challenged and pushed in ways, e.g. team work, time management, social skills, that they might not otherwise be on a day to day basis. Natural challenge beyond the academic work here to fit our mixed attainment teaching ethos.
Different ways of teaching - motivating, meaningful, rewarding for staff? Model of Project on alternate terms maintains interest of teaching non-project based curriculum?
Collaboration and social skills - a lot of skills not specified on curriculum. Real sense of collaboration between children; it felt a real positive to be working across year group rather than as two independent classes for both children and adults. Sense of team for both. Importantly, adults get to know and understand children across the year.
Immersive, wide ranging planning. Viking history was covered in great depth through reading, writing, drama, art, computing, music, outdoor learning. This was a really immersive learning experience.
Everyone had a stake in the final project. Shared responsibility.
Different skills for life not included in curriculum necessarily, e.g. time management, collaboration.
Broke some assumptions that we might have had about children through different opportunities provided by the final product.
Positive engagement with community.
Experience of real professionals - aspirations
Challenges, next steps
How do we mix learning and carrying out tasks? This sounds like it shouldn't be so difficult, and perhaps the final product of a performance didn't lend itself to doing this, however it felt that we had to 'front load' the half term with lots of learning of information before the work of creating products could begin. It feels like these two things should happen more simultaneously.
Accountability for the children. What does this look like and how is it maintained? What happens if tasks aren't completed? Some children's portfolios for the term do not have sufficient content for a terms work and do not show enough skills to assess them as being on track.
As above - did checklists work? Were they group rather than individual lists and did this make any difference? It seems in this system there can be a lack of individual accountability. Did teachers have any handle on who had done what on a regular basis? If not, how could this be built in?
Quality control. How do we ensure quality ('Beautiful Work' - XP) when there are potentially so many different tasks going on at once? Some of the quality of the work wasn't up to the standard that it might have been if everyone was on the same, modelled task, e.g. posters, content of writing matching challenging expectations of curriculum, artwork
Time in advance to plan, map curriculum objectives and reflect post project. The schools we visited take 3 days of inset...
Ownership of a project to the class team. Perhaps it was because this was the first project and it wasn't planned by the teaching team, but it felt like AG was heavily involved in a way that is not sustainable going forwards and is not supportive of the year group team's autonomy.
Sustainability for the year group team. Teaching like this required late nights, early mornings and being consumed by the project. How can this be a sustainable model so staff don't burn out after a year or two of teaching this way? Anecdotes from School 21...
Making time to explicitly teach some of the requisite skills, e.g. time management, choice of tasks, working as a team etc... that are not on the curriculum. Curriculum time is precious already, and we know these are important life skills, so how do we get them in? Shouldn't this be fairly straightforward and not take too long? Or does it take a real investment in specific teaching?
Secure planning in advance vs. the nature of a changing project. It felt like we got to a point where medium term planning didn't exist in much of a meaningful way and there were lots of planning conversations of 'what are we going to do tomorrow?' It is natural and very much part of a project that things will change as we go along, but if we work day to day we lose focus on the curriculum aims, e.g. curriculum content of writing.
How do we keep a track of weekly aims, for both us and the children, so there is consistent progress toward the aim? For adults we trialled a weekly Excel spreadsheet - was this in any way effective? Children had group checklists - were they in any way effective?
What was the effect on non-project based subjects for the half term? Were they sufficiently taught and covered?
It would be helpful for year group staff to visit schools where Project Based Learning is under way.
Effective deployment of support staff. Again, in a classroom where things can change, how are support staff informed enough to best support the children?
Getting maths into the planning in a strategic way. In a way maths seems the most difficult to link consistently while ensuring we provide progression and coverage.
Task - make it achievable by children
Maintaining the balance with the non-project curriculum
Evidence - what do we have to show for 'the play' e.g. script writing happening around school, even though we can't produce a body of script writing for every child