PBL Reflection: Am I doing this right?

By Breanna Morsadi

When introducing students to project based learning (PBL), we often get pushback. Students moan, “Can’t you just tell us the answer?”, “Why is this so hard?”, or “Why do we have to do this?” Understandably, I would lash out too if I didn’t know the benefits of self-directed learning and wasn’t fluent in the iterative (and sometimes agonizing) process of project design. While PBL Works outlines definitions for project based learning, gold standard project design, and gold standard teaching practices, we don’t always share the research, benefits, and best practices behind these methods with students.

Its time we do. Extensive research shows the need to build student fluency around the benefits of project based learning. Once there is student buy-in, learners can take ownership of their development and continually reflect on their personal learning process. The process of PBL reflection, in itself, is key for deeper learning to happen.

PBL sets the stage for reflective teaching as best practice. Learning through reflection enhances insight. Reflection requires students to construct meaning from their experiences, whether inside or outside the classroom. In Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick share that reflection involves linking a current experience to previous learnings as well as “drawing forth cognitive and emotional information from several sources: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. To reflect, we must act upon and process the information, synthesizing and evaluating the data.” This is an integral part of the PBL journey, as students apply what they learn to different contexts.

So how can students best reflect on their project development? Amy Mayer, founder of friEd technology, poses questions often asked by educators, but equally critical for students to consider regarding PBL, such as, “Am I doing this right? How do I know?” Here are 10 reflective questions to help guide students through the project process.

10 Reflective Questions for PBL

1. How are you finding personal meaning and value in your work?

2. Are you persisting in your work even though a lower standard might be negotiated? How are you adapting your expectations throughout?

3. How are you volunteering your own resources (like time, effort, and attention)?

4. Are you asking your peers questions? How does this feedback loop help your development?

5. Are you finding information independently? How are you becoming more independent in your learning?

6. Are you uncomfortable learning things in a new way? How are you pushing back? (Believe it or not, this is a good sign!)

7. How are you making choices about your products or processes as you learn?

8. Are you learning while doing instead of learning first THEN doing? What is the result?

9. How are you taking responsibility in your learning?

10. How are you celebrating your learning and sharing it with others?

Transactional learning is a thing of the past. By understanding the benefits of PBL and actively self-reflecting, students will start to take full ownership of their own learning. These questions serve to spark further self-exploration and should guide students throughout their learning journey. John Dewey reminds us that reflection in a learning context is not just a passive recall of an event, but a deliberate and active process. He states, “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” It’s time students recognize what’s at stake.

HEADRUSH facilitates project-based learning from START to FINISH allowing students to become self-empowered learners, teachers to focus on mentoring great work and schools to be future-ready. Our Heroes of PBL series highlights individuals and organizations that are brave enough to break the mold of traditional education and are making a difference in the world of project-based learning. Join our community as we enhance dialog to support deeper learning. For more, follow @headrushapp on Twitter or visit us at https://headrushlearning.com.

We facilitate project-based learning from START to FINISH. Join our community as we enhance dialogue to support deeper learning.