Getting the most out of project based learning

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn has been a state school teacher for fourteen years in the UK, working in deprived inner city schools. In 2013 he decided to move his career to an international environment and now works at the Edron Academy, Mexico DF as an English Teacher. He is currently working on a number of projects including emotional intelligence and literacy, homework without additional workloads and online learning.

He is keen to challenge current models of teaching and equip all students with 21st century thinking and learning skills. 

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With flip teaching being discussed and debated frequently, different methods of employing homework are being looked at. A group of teachers are revolutionising the issue from a school in Desierto de los Leones, Mexico. Founded in 1963 by Welshman Edward Foulkes and Canadian Ronald Stech, The Edron Academy (an IB World School since 1995) is currently looking to get the most out of after-school exercises. Michael Flynn, an expat who used to teach in the UK, now teaches English at the Academy.

At the risk of sounding unprofessional, homework has always been a thorn in our side. The children dislike it, teachers can have workload issues around it, and both the school and the parents can have unrealistic expectations of it. It is an entity in which no one has a common opinion. It is also an incredibly emotive subject; if you open any teaching publication there are hosts of opinions for and against homework. In research completed in 2006 Cooper, Robinson, and Patall noted:

'With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement'

However, this view was opposed in the same year by Bennet and Kalish in the publication, 'How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It'. In this, the authors criticised the impact upon family time, the meaningfulness and the quantity of homework.

In my experience some teachers use it to complete unfinished classwork, some teachers using it for 'flipped learning', and some teachers use it without any structure merely to keep the school and parents happy. At the Edron Academy in Mexico DF we have set ourselves the task of making homework meaningful, without adding meaningful amounts to our workload.

Current research informs us that 87% of what we learn as children is through what we see (Murphy, 2010). Under Fleming's (VAK/VARK) model we have visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners to consider in all classrooms as well as differentiation and cultural differences, and the need for our children to be independent learners (Martha Burns, 2013). These are big considerations when we are planning lessons, but sadly these are forgotten considerations when it comes to homework. Homework tends to sit on the bottom of the pile when it comes to our priorities, not because we are unprofessional, but because we don't have time. At the Edron Academy we are challenging this!

We have created a project based learning homework (PBL) package focusing on vocabulary expansion which promotes five skills, involves parents and prompts the children to consider the same ideas within their own culture. It is marked and graded by the children themselves and facilitated by the teachers. For the first time, the children themselves have ownership over homework and it's starting to produce amazing results.

Continuing on from research completed by the Emotional Intelligence faculty at Yale University, we have developed an emotional literacy package. This term we have taken forty words connected with emotion; each word has a reading, writing, reflecting, analytical and research task attached. The homework material relies heavily on images and text that work together. This way we can guarantee that the visual, auditory and kinesthetic students all have an opportunity to learn.

We have taken famous people from British society connected to these words and concepts to express the meaning and action of these same words. In the reading task, we have looked to celebrate the best things about the British culture through its great characters in the form of short articles. In the reflective task we have asked the children to interpret these words and interview their parents and guardians with questions connected to the definitions. In the analytical task the children define the words through symbols, which always provides some insightful responses to how their minds and creativity works. They write these results up in the written task and continue to write for the research task. In the research task they look at the word from a cultural perspective and find someone or something similar.

The results have been amazing; firstly their vocabulary has grown. Year 7 students are comfortably using these multisyllabic words in their everyday speech and writing. It can be heard in class discussion and seen clearly in their assessment work. Parents feel more involved with their children's schooling, adding their own experiences to complement their children's learning at school. The cultural divide has been diminished as the children look more avidly for the similarities that exist between us and not the differences.

For the first time in my experience every party is happy, the children are working independently, the parents are involved and the school are surpassing homework expectations without an increase in workload for the front line teachers.

For more information about PBL, please feel free to get in touch with Michael Flynn at michael.flynn@edron.edu.mx or John Kelly at john.kelly@edron.edu.mx.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"