Traditional, lecture-based classrooms are in need of a make-over, according to a group of education experts meeting in Napa this week. Project-based learning, they say, is the answer.
New Technology High School is hosting the Project-Based Learning World Conference through Friday.
About 465 educators from around the world are attending the conference, including representatives from Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Saudi Arabia.
The conference offers a variety of workshops on project-based learning — an in-depth learning process in which students respond to complex questions and complete rigorous group projects. The conference’s workshops are conducted by faculty from the Buck Institute of Education, which is dedicated to improving 21st Century skills through project-based learning.
Rosanna Mucetti, the Buck Institute's director of District and State Initiatives, will conduct a workshop on teaching English learners. She believes the traditional education system is failing these students, because it does not take their needs or interests into account.
Of about 18,000 students enrolled in the Napa Valley Unified School District, approximately 4,000 are English learners, according to date from the California Department of Education.
Mucetti said project-based learning is a “great, natural fit for language learning” because it requires communication and collaboration with group members. Instead of English learners sitting passively in a lecture-based classroom, they have to actively participate and use language, she said.
What’s essential, however, is that teachers design projects with English learners in mind, Mucetti said. English learners need to be taught the necessary language skills to participate in the project — otherwise, native English speakers will dominate in group work. This rule should apply to every teacher, even in math and science classes, she said.
“When an English learner is in the classroom, we’re all teachers of language,” Mucetti said.
Napa Valley Unified has been under Program Improvement status since 2006-07 for failing to make adequate yearly progress — a statewide accountability system set up by the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires each state to ensure that all schools, districts and subgroups make progress in math and English.
The district’s goal is for every student to graduate career- and college-ready by mastering California state standards, as well as what the district calls the “four C’s”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
To achieve that goal, Napa Valley Unified plans to expand project-based learning across the district, to equip every classroom with wireless technology and to use digital devices as learning tools — especially at the middle and high school levels, said Mark Morrison, the school district’s director of secondary education.
New Technology High School is one of the district’s leaders in having implemented project-based learning.Read the full article »
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