Back in May 2017, Ronelle Knowles attended the U@Uni Teacher Professional Development Workshop where attendees were challenged to produce a student driven, PBL program that they could implement in their own schools.
Ronelle, who teaches in the HSIE faculty at Sir Joseph Banks High School (Revesby), shares her experiences in designing and delivering PBL projects that focus on sustainability.
Q: What is the driving question for your project based learning program?
My Term 2 program is ‘How can we design sustainable cities?’ and my Term 3 Program is ‘How can we use water sustainably into the future?’
Q: What have you done differently in your school since the UTS Project Based Learning workshop in May?
I wrote my program before I did the workshop and since then I have included and implemented some of the strategies, for example, the idea food where the kids have to come up with ideas in 7 minutes.
My program has been reviewed by our Program Review Team and it has been recognised as an exemplary example of programming. It has been showcased to other schools as part of network sharing. So in this sense, the workshop has provided me with solid underpinnings and demonstrated to me that the PBL research I did in January in preparation for teaching the enrichment class was on the right track. The workshop provided me with inspiration and enthusiasm for PBL.
Q: What have been some challenges in planning and/ or implementing your project based program at your school?
The main challenge has been with the maturity (or lack of maturity) of the students. I have a small class of varying maturities and even though they are the enrichment class they really are “young”. So we’re working through a range of communication skills activities, including having my husband come in to run a listening workshop.
Q: What has been an enabler at your school to help you plan and/or implement project based learning at your school?
Our school implemented PBL in 2015 for Years 7-8 Enrichment classes only. The teacher co-program where possible. There are a lot of factors that limit what a school like ours can do but we are starting small. We have a Quality Performance and Development Unit which coordinates and oversees teaching and learning.
Q: What are your top tips to share with other teachers looking to implement project based learning programs in their school?
Tip 1: Start small by working with a small team that has experience in and/or willingness to implement PBL.
Tip 2: Try to keep expectations to what is achievable; PBL requires cultural and pedagogical change
By Ronelle Knowles. Ronelle Knowlesis a HSIE teacher at Sir Joseph Banks High School.