The MET PBL immersion

I remember when I first started MET, it was my first exposure to a Masters program, and to this style of learning. I remember waiting for a prof to intervene in our discussions when we were trying to figure out how to do something, and the intervention never coming. I remember feeling frustrated. What does the prof want? Why are they not telling us? Why are they so vague? Thus my immersion into product-based learning. I have since come to enjoy it MOST of the time. When you get stuck in a bad group, or get a rubric that seems a little too up in the air it can be frustrating. As someone who was always very good (and quick) at memorizing, a move away from test-based assessment and towards product-based meant way more time on task for me. I’m still blown away by the kind of transformative learning that occurs through discussion boards – prior to MET, I had always thought of the ‘group’ components of a program as a necessary evil (no offence, guys!) but now I am often finding myself expounding the benefits of product-based learning, authentic tasks, and communities of practice to my peers (who are usually complaining about the group stuff required in their masters programs). This program serves as a great model for what can come of it.

When I’ve tried to translate the process into high school classes (mostly project-based in math, although I’ve done problem-based in biology) it quickly becomes apparent that high school students and MET students cannot handle the same level of uncertainty. I’m not saying it doesn’t work – it does – but it requires LOTS of planning, scaffolding, and modeling. It requires involving students in the development of rubrics, using tools such as design books (where students document their work throughout the process; could easily be electronic), development and use of peer evaluation, active teaching of negotiation skills and teamwork skills… I’ve even found that having the students practice which phrases to use in different contexts during group issues or conflict. There is also the matter of keeping your administration and parents informed as to how you are assessing, how frequently, etc. There will be dead zones in assessment, since you are assessing a finished product. I mention all this here, because my use of this in classes has come first-hand from my MET experiences. So obviously they have been overall very positive.

Product-based assessment can be transformative if done effectively, and can be terrible if done poorly.


Posted in: Week 10: Product-Based Assessments