Personalized Learning at Bluff Creek

Purposeful Instruction through Project Based Learning

One of our pillars for personalized learning is Purposeful Instruction, Assessment and Feedback. Teaching is the core service we provide and we spend a lot of time getting it just right. Teaching is a lot like learning — everyone learns differently, and each teacher has his/her own style of teaching. But there are fundamentals of purposeful instruction that we maintain as a district. One is active learning — humans were not built to passively receive information. We learn best when we are curious, when we can apply a concept in a hands-on way and when we can solve problems to improve our lives. Another is continuous progress: a student’s age should not determine when learning starts and ends. Learning is a continuum where a 9-year-old student might be ready content that is traditionally taught in 5th grade, and so we adjust accordingly.

Some examples of purposeful instruction with high levels of engagement at Bluff Creek are the project based learning experiences many of our students are experiencing on a daily basis. Project based learning takes place in classrooms, our maker spaces, in art and through our Project Impact initiative that involves our fourth and fifth graders. But what is project based learning? Project based learning is an instructional approach that increases student engagement through collaboration, inquiry, and activities which lead students through inquiry to answer a driving question. It involves students in the inquiry process and is closely tied to choice, learning style and higher learning thinking skills. Here is a brief video that will help explain PBL (Project Based Learning) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuzgJlqzjFw.

In our Makerspace students are given a challenge and some materials. The challenge is usually something that they can work on together and solve. An example might be- here are some materials- how can you figure out how to make a light bulb light up. What are your observations- what didn’t work and why did your solution to the challenge work?

In our 3-4-5 Family students were presented with this question: How do you experience force, motion and energy at Nickelodeon Universe? This prompted experiments and research about physics principles. Interestingly students in teams were mixed ages- third, fourth and fifth graders. Their solutions to this question inspired students to research physics principles, create a hypothesis and test their ideas using hands-on experiences.

The outcomes of project based learning include; higher levels of engagement in learning, long-term retention of content, improved performance on high stakes tests, improved problem solving and collaboration skills and increased positive attitudes towards learning. Assessment and Feedback is focused on the process as well as the outcomes of student work and is specific and on-going throughout the learning process.

Project Based Learning is just one of the ways that we increase student engagement at Bluff Creek. In the three short months that we have been in school, students have reported that Project Based Learning is a positive experience in these ways:

  • Students feel successful learning in nontraditional ways with hands-on and inquiry based experiences.
  • Students report that learning focuses on what is best for them as an individual as they move toward standards mastery.
  • Students like that this type of learning because it encourages students to take risks – it allows mistakes and even encourages them.

Project based learning is directly tied to our Minnesota Learning Standards. If you would like to learn more about how learning standards drive teaching, learning and assessment, please join us at our Ed Issues Forum on Monday, November 20th at 3:20. This brief presentation and conversation will take place in our Media Center and all parents are welcome!