Bankstown Girls High School (BGHS) students are taking action on global issues through PBL.
The school has successfully run a very large (whole of Year 9), term-long inquiry/PBL program for over 10 years. Over time this has evolved into a Global Issue campaign where students decide on an issue, target an authentic audience and take action on the issue. Evelyn Mircevski (HT TAS) and Nita Barnes (Enrichment Coordinator) share practice information about Bankstown Girls High School’s most recent term-long PBL project, ‘Toy Story’.
- Department: TAS
- Target Subject: Technology Mandatory
- Target Year level: Whole of Year 9
- Driving Question: How can we work collaboratively to design and create a toy that is age-appropriate, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable for our chosen target market?
- Key Outcomes: The project is aligned with syllabus outcomes for STAGE 4 Technology students.
- 4.1.1 applies design processes that respond to needs and opportunities in each design project
- 4.1.2 describes factors influencing design in the areas of study of Products
- 4.2.1 generates and communicates creative design ideas and solutions
- 4.2.2 selects, analyses, presents and applies research and experimentation from a variety of sources
- 4.5.1 applies management processes to successfully complete design projects
- 4.5.2 produces quality solutions that respond to identified needs and opportunities in each design project
- 4.6.1 applies appropriate evaluation techniques throughout each design project
- 4.6.2 identifies and explains ethical, social, environmental and sustainability considerations related to design projects
From the on-set students were briefed on ‘ownership’ and the importance of their responsibility within the project. Creating ‘toy manufacturing companies’ provided for them an instant accountability.
To enable a balance within each group, students were asked to note the name of one person they wanted to work with and then teachers allocated the rest of the students. There are 19 students within the class which are divided into 4 toy manufacturing companies and then 1 company with 3 students.
Teachers have been explicit about communicating the need to have evaluative thinking and this so far has been achieved by creating checkpoints within the process.
The initial marketing pitch to the ‘executive board’ (teachers forming a panel) and the built in 5-10 minutes for verbal feedback at the end of each lesson has enabled much sharing of ideas and challenges. There is also a focus that the toy will be tested within a real-world forum.
Embedding student choice in PBL
Since attending the UTS U@Uni Project Based Learning workshop in May 2017, teachers have had students engage in a far more student-driven collaborative process following a PBL structure. Students have followed the design thinking process: researching their chosen market, generating ideas, creating their own design brief and apply marketing strategies and pitching their ideas to “the board” before creating their product.
Teachers have programmed for far greater student choice and direction, as well as an application to a real life, authentic situation. Students will be trialing the success of their toy with students at a local special needs school, as well a local pre-school.
In-school enablers and challenges
The willingness of staff (and students) to be flexible and innovative and to take risks has been a significant enabler in implementing PBL at the school. The department has complete support on a whole school basis to implement PBL strategies. Of course, this project is with one very keen class, within allocated TAS lessons. As a challenge, the project has taken much longer than anticipated, with only 4 allocated periods per cycle, and the usual whole-school variations to routine.
Top PBL tips
1. The initial “hook” lesson is vital in engaging the interest and enthusiasm of the students. Ours was so successful. Teachers organised play “stations” where groups had 5 minutes to play with classic, perennial toys (Mr. Potato Head, Tupperware Shape-o, tactile books, wooden blocks, musical instruments etc). Students used post-it notes to identify the target age group, design features, developmental features, and guess the market price of each of the toys. The girls really enjoyed it, and it was a great way to introduce the concept of “PLAY” and design considerations.
2. Allow for more time than you would expect for the project.
By Evelyn Mircevski and Nita Barnes. Evelyn Mircevski is Head Teacher TAS and Nita Barnes is Enrichment Coordinator at Bankstown Girls High School.