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Keeping our Chemistry PBL Relevant: Week 2 - Education Impression

Keeping our Chemistry PBL Relevant: Week 2

Last week I wrote the first post in a series about the chemistry PBL that my colleagues and I are piloting this year. Here is the update for Week 2!

On our second day devoted to this project, we asked students to read the article that was the springboard for this project. Instead of reading it in its original form, I pasted it into Prism and asked students to read and highlight one thing they agreed with, one thing they disagreed with, and a reason we might be doing the project. After they submit their highlights, they can see everyone’s highlights. Want to check it out? Take a look at the Prism article here.

We wanted our students to choose groups and begin thinking about a topic. We have identified four roles for each group – Project Manager, Researcher, Web Designer, and Graphic Designer – and we wanted to help students choose groups that would allow them to draw on diverse strengths instead of just relying on their pals. Since we are working on relevance, we decided to use a BuzzFeed quiz. Students completed the quiz and then received a match of their best role. Want to try our quiz? Here it is.

As they waited for everyone to finish, students put their names onto post-its and brainstormed a quick list of 3-5 topics for which they might want to investigate the chemistry. Chemistry of saxophones? Lattes? Drugs? I collected the post-its as they finished them.

After learning of their best match role, they grouped together with the other students in that role and read the description. If they didn’t think it fit them, they could change, but we emphasized that all groups would need to designate a different person as each role, so they should carefully consider what their attributes. When they were firm in what role they could play, I put the post-its on the whiteboards in role categories. Then students could walk around and read what their peers might want to explore and begin choosing groups.

Once all the groups had formed, they had time to start talking about a topic and looking around on the internet to see if information would be available for the topic they chose. By Week 3, they would need a firm topic.

I liked using the BuzzFeed quiz and I think students did too. They thought it was silly, but it pointed them in a direction to get them started. One student said, “I love that we took a BuzzFeed quiz for school since I take so many at home!” Unfortunately, about half the students in each class came up as Project Managers, so compromises had to be made about who would actually serve in that role. This surprised me a little, especially the really quiet students who pictured themselves in this leadership role. I have obviously watched a lot more Project Runway and Top Chef because I know what happens to the Team Leader when the project goes awry!

The day actually had a reality TV feel. I’m not sure the groups formed in exactly the way I hoped. Many students opted to work with friends and made the roles fit. Also, in one class, two students didn’t make it into a group, so there was an awkward conversation that had a happy enough ending (or so it looked to me!), but I hate that feeling of waiting to be chosen. I might change how I do this next year, but I’m not exactly sure how. Maybe identify the Project Managers first and then let them choose their teams? Not sure, but I would love your suggestions in the comments!

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