In a whole-class, teacher-led context, the educator often provides guidance or direction at the beginning of any learning. In an elementary classroom, particularly younger grades, instruction is direct and simple and activities are short in duration as most students are developing new skills for the first time. Alternatively, in a high school setting, such as a science lab when demonstrating a potentially dangerous experiment or one with limited resources, teachers will deliver the lesson one-time to the entire class. In either case, there are good reasons to apply a whole-class, teacher-led approach.
After students become more familiar with the PeBL approach, students will gain more influence on their own learning and teachers and students will start to share decision-making responsibility. Most often, this starts by encouraging students to choose where, when, how and with whom they learn.
Overtime, student responsibility for learning increases as they are able to determine exactly what approach they want to use to explore a topic or topics.
In Sun West, we engage students to ensure that they deeply explore areas of interest as well as the outcomes defined by curriculum and that they have voice and choice in their learning. Teachers play the critical role of transferring responsibility to the students, at a pace, time and opportunity that makes sense.
Ideally, transfer of responsibility encompasses three key terms: deliberate, gradual and between.
Deliberate means to do intentionally, carefully and with thought.
Gradual means slowly or by degrees; it does not imply 100% or right now.
And between, by definition, means the space separating two points. It does not suggest one way or the other. So responsibility can shift from educator to student, but for any number of reasons, it can shift back as needed.
Transfer of Responsibility is highly dependent on an individual student’s age, maturity, capacity and skill level. What is important to note is that in any of the learning environments that we’ve described, transfer of responsibility can start to happen. Student voice can begin playing a role in a whole-class, teacher-led environment and as blended and then personalized learning happens, that voice gets louder and has more influence.
Another way to think about moving along the learning continuum is as: “I do, we do, you do.” “I do” means that teachers are making most or all decisions.“We do” means students and teachers share the responsibility for those decisions and “You do” means that students largely drive their own learning to achieve both personal and academic goals.
Below, Sun West teachers talk about PeBL in their classrooms.