We selected a pre-prepared Unit of Inquiry, “Community Photojournalists” from PBLU.org which you can find here. The project was designed around the guiding question “How can I tell an interesting story that helps people understand my community?” As a group we simply aligned the project rubrics to suit the Bavarian Curriculum and the rest of the plan was followed without significant alteration. The project was based on BIE’s “8 Essential Elements of PBL”:
1. Significant Content
2. 21st Century Competencies
3. In-Depth Inquiry
4. Driving Question
5. Need to Know
6. Voice and Choice
7. Revision and Reflection
8. Public Audience.
Groups were carefully chosen only after building whole-group rapport through a series of team-building activities and a whole-group reflection on how best to distribute students with skills relevant to the project. We deviated from the script to experiment with Visible Thinking routines. When students brainstormed their individual topics, they made their work visible to the whole group and to classroom visitors by completing a “Chalk-Talk” which was then displayed on a specially-prepared “Process Wall”. Introducing students to the concept of Photojournalism by analysing Time’s Lightbox and BagNews provided an ideal opportunity to conduct a “See/Think/Wonder” routine.
By Sunday evening, though students were only given 27 hours to complete the entire Seminar, they had managed to publish their artefacts on the Seminar website eoinlenihan.com. Though this project was actually designed for Primary School students, because of the universal appeal of the topic and flexibility of #PBL, these University students came away from the weekend with a sense that something truly special had occurred. They felt as if they had learned valuable 21st Century skills and they certainly felt more connected to their University. You can see their work in progress and final artefacts here.
More importantly, it is now undeniable that Germany is, after decades of mass immigration and failed integration policies, at a crossroads as a society. In classrooms dominated by Direct Instruction, there are almost no authentic opportunities given to pupils to develop a shared sense of identity or sense of commitment to their local community. These classrooms are narrowly focused on academic achievement, little else. It is time for all Germans to demand more from their school system. A stable future depends upon it. These 14 student teachers are committed to ensuring just such a future by developing an Internationally-Minded classroom culture driven by student Inquiry.