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Keeping Our PBL Relevant: A Wrap-Up - Education Impression

Keeping Our PBL Relevant: A Wrap-Up

I spent several hours today [finally!] grading the PBL that my students completed in January. If you haven’t read the previous 4 posts, here is a quick summary. In groups, students created an infographic about a topic related to chemistry because people don’t like chemistry because it doesn’t feel relevant to their lives.

I’d love it if you’d take a look at the final products. All of the infographics are housed at this website. If you don’t want to sift through all the projects (my students’ projects are there, but also my the projects of my PLC partners too), take a look at my favorites: Chocolate Chip Cookies and Ice Cream. If you feel compelled, please comment.

When I return from spring break, I will be working through the PBL reflection protocol with my PLC. To prepare for that, I asked the kids some reflective questions. What did they like? What didn’t they like? What was the value of each step of the project? Here is the one that really jumped out at me:


Students selected “the option to choose our own topic” as “it was the best part of the project.” If our goal was to show that chemistry is relevant, this feedback seems like we may have accomplished that. Or at least that our effort was not in vain.

A couple of students said they loved the project. One student said s/he hated the project. It would be interesting to see how the feedback might change after they see their grades (I asked for feedback before I graded them). The scores on the project were pretty good – an average of 35 out of 40.

Here’s what I hope to change for next year: 

  • Students need encouragement to work on the project outside of class if they cannot finish inside of class. I need a better system of checkpoints to help them see if they have made good progress and to ensure that everyone is finished on time. 
  • I think the projects each need a driving question rather than a broad topic. This might help focus the projects and keep them from being a retread of material that is already available online.
  • I’m thinking about assigning groups rather than asking them to form with an eye toward what they need in a group expertise-wise. I need to think more about this.

Overall, it was a different approach to chemistry. I’m glad I tried it. Have you tried PBL in high school science? What can you share about how it went?

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