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Based Instruction – Fall 2017

Instructor: Dr. Anthony Petrosino
TA: Max Sherard

August 31, 2017
Class 1: Introductions and Reviewing the

Project Based Inquiry began the semester with
its first class. 8 Students are enrolled in the
course (names listed above) joined by the
Professor, Dr. Petrosino; and a graduate student
Teaching Assistant (Max Sherard). The class
began with an introduction of the professor, his
career history, and current and past research
interests. Students went around the table and
introduced their name, year, content area, and
any other interesting information about

The class reviewed informally theories of learning they discussed in Knowing and Learning.
Some of theories mentioned were constructivism and zone of proximal development. The
syllabus was reviewed with emphasis on the modular nature of the class. Students learned how
their prior coursework (Step 1, Step 2, Knowing and Learning, and Classroom Interactions)
would function and operate within the capstone course; PBI. Students learned about the three
components of the course: in-class theoretical attributes of PBI, the field experience, and the
PBI unit design.

September 5, 2017
Class 2: History and Development of

The second class began with a
presentation to help students
understand where Project Based
Inquiry is in the context of their
development within the UTeach
program. Students reviewed the
initial steps of the program (Step 1,
Step 2, Knowing and Learning, and Classroom Interactions) and discussed how these classes
prepared them for the capstone PBI experience.

Students learned the literature based definition of PBI and discussed the variations and
authentic/inauthentic implementations of PBI. They learned of the history of PBI and its
development at different research institutions around the country.
The end of class discussed what students should expect from the three components, how they
will interact, and the 4 course goals (listed below:

1. To support UTeach students’ development by building a deep understanding of PBL,
including differentiating between strong and weak theoretical approaches to PBL, and
between PBL and other inquiry-based approaches.
2. To enhance UTeach students’ ability to design or adapt activities, lesson plans and
complete project-based unit following theoretical frameworks of PBL.
3. To build UTeach students’ capacity to critically reflect on their own and others’ lesson
plans and enactment.
4. To increase UTeach students’ ability to measure student learning through the
appropriate use of formative and summative assessment, and respond instructionally to
the assessment information.
5. To incorporate and synthesize work from Knowing and Learning, Classroom Interactions,
and STEP courses into a meaningful capstone experience integrating theory and

Dr. Petrosino culminated the class by discussing a Project Based Unit he conducted with
elementary school students on rocket design, flight height, and Bernoulli’s effect.

September 7, 2017
Class 3: Circumference of the Earth (COE)

Students began the third class by taking a
multiple-choice assessment covering content
from various domains (physics of light, basic
multi digit multiplication, geometry). The
assessment was collected and graded by the
TA. Shortly after the multiplication
assessment, students were given a sheet of
paper with a short description of a task on it.
The task was the story of Eratosthenes and his
attempt to discover the circumference of the
earth. Students were given the same data points that Eratosthenes gathered in Syene, Egypt
(300 B.C.) and asked to use their understanding of geometry and algebra to determine the
circumference of the earth. The 8 students were split into two groups of four, and a 3D camera
was placed at the center of each pod of students to film them while they worked. Some of the
solution pathways students attempted were listed below:

- Drawing the “pie” section of the earth with the measurement
- Drawing the section of the earth as a triangle and attempting to use Pythagorean’s
theorem to solve for the missing angle
- Drawing the sun with radial rays casting shadows on the two meter sticks

Students worked collaboratively for about 10 minutes while the instructor and teaching
assistant circulated and questioned the students. At the 10-minute mark, the instructor asked
the students if they wanted to stop, or continue working. The students asked for more time.
After 15 minutes, neither group had determined the correct answer. The students then viewed
a short video by Carl Sagan (link) which explained the problem and the correct solution.
Afterwards, a discussion was held on the difference between the multiple-choice assessment
and the Circumference of the Earth activity. Some notable items were mentioned:

- Students described the circumference of the earth activity as more engaging and
- Students mentioned that the COE problem did not have a single solution pathway
- Students discussed which assignment would provide better demonstration of
understanding, and decided that the COE problem was better for measuring
understanding of multiple concepts than the multiple-choice assessment.

At the end of the class, students were tasked with creating either a formative or summative
assessment, using the Circumference of the Earth Problem to present in class on September
12th, 2017.

September 12, 2017
Class 4: Presenting Assessments from the
COE Problem

Students arrive with digital, paper, or
mental copies of their assessment for the
circumference of the earth problem.
Students were asked to take turns
standing and explaining how they
designed their assessment, why they
chose to use this design, and what they
believed their assessment would
measure. Some notes about the
students’ assessments are recorded

- Many students chose to create
summative assessments;
however, two students chose to create formative assessments.
- One student chose to assess content and attitudes about the type of work students
were asked to perform.
- One student focused heavily on scaffolding the modeling/drawing aspects of the
- All students planned the questions to deliver to students, but no student planned the
exemplar answers or developed a rubric for the questions.
- No student made consideration for reading ability when designing the experiment.

After the 8 students presented on their work, the instructor and TA provided feedback for the
students to edit their assessments. The feedback centered largely around incorporating
exemplar responses or rubrics, and thinking about what types of data are being elicited from
the question.

The students were tasked to edit their assessments and deliver these assessments to students,
roommates, friends, or other individuals. Their next assignment, due in two weeks, will be to
write up any “noticings” from delivery of their assessment.

September 14, 2017
Class 5: Jasper Problem

- Discussing mentor teacher
meeting at MNTHS
- Students discussed the
content they will teach (cell
cycle, systems of linear
equations, and absolute
value, radar guns
- One student mentioned using
radar guns

Transition to Jasper Problem (Anchored Instruction).

Students had their first experience working with the Jasper problem, a canon example of
anchored instruction produced at Vanderbilt University. Students watched the short movie,
approximately 10 minutes, titled Rescue at Boone’s Meadow. The video tells the narrative of a
group of individuals attempting to rescue an injured eagle. The video provides a problem space
where students can attempt to determine the shortest and quickest route to deliver the eagle
from a far away meadow to the veterinarian.

Students watched and took notes initially, then worked in small groups of 2-3 to attempt to
solve the jasper problem. The remainder of class was spent attempting to solve the problem,
and then reflecting on the effort it took to work through the problem. Students discussed their
high levels of engagement, the joy experienced from an open-ended problem, and the plethora
of math skills they were using while solving the problem.

For their final task, students were asked to make a concept map of how this problem could be
solved. An example concept map is provided above.
September 18th, 2017
Class 6: Introduction to Project-Based Inquiry

Dr. Petrosino was traveling
during this class period – so
the class was taught by the
T.A., Max Sherard. Today was
comprised of three sections:
review of the readings,
reviewing a sample PBI unit,
and connecting the
components of PBI to the
Jasper and Circumference of
the Earth Problem.

Students read three texts to introduce themselves to the content of Project-Based Instruction:

- Project-Based Learning by Krajcik and Blumenfeld (2006)
- The Pedagogy of Poverty versus Good Teaching by Haberman (1991)
- For Math Students: High expectations: a ‘how’ of achieving equitable mathematics in
the classroom by Jamar and Pitts (2005).
- For Science Students: Equity and Diversity in Science and Engineering Education (2012)
by the National Research Council.

The majority of the discussion focused on reading one – Project-Based Learning – which
described the 5 features of PBL and connected each with one of 4 theories in the learning
sciences. Students were divided into 4 groups (2 students in each group) and were each
assigned one of the four learning theories: situated learning, active construction, social
interaction, or cognitive tools. Students summarized the definition of each in their own words,
described where they see this fitting into the classroom learning environment, and identified
where in the 5 elements of PBL they saw this learning theory being most meaningfully present.
Students then shared out their posters.

After reviewing the texts, the instructor presented on a modeling-based inquiry unit that he
conducted over the course of 6 months at a middle school in Nashville, Tennessee. Students
identified which elements of PBI they saw within the project and made recommendations for
how to improve the unit.

Finally, students returned to the Jasper and Circumference of the Earth problems. After
reviewing a concept map of the Jasper problem, students discussed some areas in which they
saw authentic use of PBI in each problem. Some ideas students mentioned are listed below:
- The driving question was a complex problem, but did not have any elements of a career
within it.
- The video acted as a cognitive tool – which students had to continually access to gather
data to solve the problem.
- One of the authentic skills that was situated within the lesson was the need for students
to sift through lots of information to find only important information – rather than only
important information being given to them.

Class ended with questions regarding their own delivery of the Circumference of the Earth

September 21st, 2017
Class 7: Unpacking the TEKS with Denise Eckberg

Denise Eckberg, the master teacher for UTeach,
lead the class today to teach students about
unpacking TEKS related to their project-based
unit. The course began with some reflections
from students’ field observations at Manor New
Tech High School. Two students had the
opportunity to see the roll out, while one
student had the opportunity to see the
presentations. Students were excited about the school culture and the requirement for
students to dress up while presenting.

Ms. Eckberg began the presentation by discussing a method for unpacking TEKS standards.
Specifically, students were shown how to develop concept maps for standards. The
presentation then covered how to develop authentic driving questions that fit a rubric.
Students evaluated three driving questions to determine which question was a best “fit” for a
PBI unit.

The remainder of the class – students worked to unpack their TEKs standards and develop
driving questions.

September 26th, 2017
Class 8: Sharing Assessments and Working on Driving Questions

Discussion of Reading Set 2 was postponed due to student presentations. After class the
previous week, students were given the task to modify the Circumference of the Earth problem
into a formative or summative assessment and deliver the assessment to any individual or small
group. Students were given the option to present their assessment to their peers and receive
feedback. Some notes on student presentations are below:

- Formative/Summative assessment
- Students: little brother and his girlfriend (sophomore and senior)
- Mini questionnaire (tangent, solving proportions, and how many degrees in a circle)
- Watch short video about how sun’s rays affect the Earth
- Check for understanding
- Give the Eratosthenes problem (work in group, observe them use it)
- Provided feedback periodically to start it “organize the information somehow”
- Time was short – it was slightly rushed
- Provided more feedback than she wanted to
- Negative tangent/inverse tangent – that was the barrier to getting the answer
- Prepared 2 other problems for summative assessment

- Group: non-STEM students (undergraduate)
- One person in the triad became the “group leader” of the problem solving
- Verbal check for understandings
- Formative assessments
- Check for understanding that act as gateway to next step
- Asking students to explain how they solved a problem – and evaluate if they solved it
- 30-minute timeline
- Provided the video resources
- Used a rubric to grade the results (how thorough or accurate was the answer)

- Provided base of the diagram
- Prior material is geometry
- Provided a mini-lesson of Tangent, Cosine, Sine
- Provided a mini-lesson on parallel lines
- Provided steps of what to draw (removing drawing barrier)
- Students noticing their misconceptions and correcting it
- Summative Assessment
- Not about sorting for information, but applying the concept in a defined problem space
- Music and Business major, they did “really well”
- Rubric for diagram that leads to teacher action

- Sister and Cousin (already graduated)
- Assigned pre-assessment about concepts (like the multiple-choice exam)
- Read problem, discuss with partner, plan a general trajectory for how they could solve it
- Group, assess and evaluate, re-group and re-try the problem
- Students were trying to do a lot of the formula
- More teacher involvement than he would have liked for it
- Provided a different diagram for a different problem (with different numbers but the
same concept).

September 28th, 2017
Class 9: Multi-Day Sketch with Denise

In the previous weeks, students worked to unpack the TEKS they were assigned for their sample
teach. Students received feedback on the depth and breadth of their unpacking. Most students
needed guidance on explicating how the standard will be assessed and the assessments role in
unpacking the TEK.

Denise Eckberg lead students in developing a Multi-day sketch for their 3-day sample teaching
experience. A Powerpoint was used and examples were provided to students on the white
board of what the 3-day framework could be. Students were advised to structure their sample
teach in the following way:

1. Introduction to the driving question and planning the product
2. Open worktime for developing the project or product
3. Finishing product and presentation.

Students were provided a template for the multi-day sketch and given the rest of the class time
to work individually or in their teaching teams.

October 3rd, 2017
Class 10: Reading Set 3 and Materials Work

Class 10 began with a group discussion of reading set 3. Reading set three was comprised of a
reading on rubric design for all students, two readings on performance assessments for math
teachers, and two readings on formative and performance assessment for science teachers.
During the discussion, students reflected on the utility of rubrics, their role in assessment, and
assessments role in project-based instruction. Students focused mainly on the ability of a rubric
to be used to grade assignments fairly. Dr. Petrosino pushed students to think about rubrics as
an opportunity for feedback to learners about their progress towards a pre-determined goal
within the project-based unit.
The last 20 minutes of class, students were able to collaborate with each other to finish
their multi-day sketch. The Teaching Assistant, Max, floated between groups and offered
feedback and provided examples of how in-depth multi-day sketches should be.

October 5th, 2017
Class 11: Materials Work with Denise

Generating materials for students to use is the final stage of developing the three-day project-
based unit. Denise Eckberg instructed class and provided ample work time for students to begin
developing materials. Most students focused on introductory materials: letters from the
American Cancer Society, finding videos for anchor experiences, planning and note-taking
worksheets. One student, Madeline, developed a sophisticated excel document would possess
all data students gathered for their project in one digital location.

Materials development takes time, so many students did not finish their materials creation until
the end of the week. Materials were reviewed by Denise Eckberg, Daniel Fitzpatrick, and Max
Sherard. Feedback was provided to groups who needed help developing their materials.

October 10th, 2017
Class 12: Discussion of Reading Set 4,
Time/Distance/Graph, and MNTHS
Meeting 2

Reading set 4 comprised one reading
for all students on assessment design
and specific readings for content areas
on formative assessment work in
science and math classrooms. Students
came to class and discussed how they
planned to use formative assessment
in their 3-day unit. Max discussed the
implication of timing and how the PBI students could use technology to create quick, easy to
respond to, formative assessments. A matrix was used to discuss the structure of formative
assessments. On the X-axis, was the time commitment of the formative assessment (1-3
minutes, 5 minutes, or more hefty commitments like 20 minutes/end of the week
assessments) and on the Y-axis was the depth of content that could be covered in the

To push student thinking about formative assessment, Dr. Petrosino and Max presented A
Taxonony of Generative Activity Design (Stroup, Ares, & Hurford, 2004). Students learned about
assessment pathways and end goals, and were able to classify various types of assessment in
their degrees of freedom. After becoming
familiarized with the taxonomy of generative
activity design, students were prompted to
develop their own generative formative task using
the framework. The content students used to
develop the formative task was the relationship
between distance traveled and time to travel
when calculating position. Students posted their
formative assessments to canvas and were able to
view other’s work.

October 12th, 2017
Class 13: Peer Review

By October 12th, PBI students have (1) unpacked their TEKs, (2) Built out assessments and
rubrics for the driving question and final product, (3) completed a multi-day sketch, and (4)
developed lesson plans with materials. Today, Denise Eckberg led the class in completing peer-
reviews regarding the design of other people’s 3-day sample teaches. Students set up their
laptops and traded computers with a person from an opposite content area (math reviewed
science lessons, and science reviewed math lessons). Students were provided with feedback
sheets to use during the peer-review.

The goal of peer review was to exchange ideas between content areas and provide an authentic
scenario to provide feedback on lesson plans, a feature of many school professional
development communities. It is unknown how much feedback provided altered the structure of
lesson plans before students taught in the classroom.

October 17th, 2017
Class 14: Discussion of Reading Set 5 and Work Time

Reading set five was
perhaps the most
beneficial to student
planning for the sample
teach. The reading set had
all students read an article
that explained a rubric for
science inquiry in the
classroom. In the article,
students were taught
about the 4 traits of authentic inquiry; and were exposed to the varying tiers of classroom
inquiry. The lowest level of classroom inquiry, often called the “cookbook lab,” provides
students with a question, a methodology, specific data to collect, and a finite answer to be
reached. While these labs have been scrutinized, they do have their place in the classroom
setting and can be used as a formative scaffold to higher forms of inquiry.

Students were pushed to think about the context of their own 3-day lessons and rank the level
of inquiry that was being achieved. Many students realized after comparing the rubric to their
own work that their 3-day units didn’t surpass level 2 inquiry. Level two is characterized by
inquiry situations where students are given the question as well as a means to collect the data –
rather than allowing students to figure out which data must be collected.

Some students also realized that their lessons wouldn’t be categorized as inquiry at all –
because their students were researching by reading to understand, rather than collecting data
to analyze and make inferences from.

October 19th, 2017
Class 15: Practice Teaching Lesson Plans

With less than a week to go until PBI students go to the field to teach, today was spent
practicing portions of the lesson. The class was divided in half: 4 students went with Denise and
4 students went with Max to practice teach. In Max’s cohort, students began by trouble-
shooting their specific classroom layout and developing a plan for how they would initiate
students into the class and begin their lesson. This is a particularly important skill because the
comfort with initiating a lesson depends on knowing the classroom space and knowing how to
garner attention from students after a hectic classroom transition. Students spent
approximately 10 minutes practicing how to let students into the classroom and begin the

Afterwards, Dr. Petrosino provided anecdotes from his own teaching experience regarding the
how best to initiate a classroom lesson. After practicing entrance procedures, students
practiced the roll out of their lesson as close to real-time as they could. Some students were
prepared to practice as if it were the real day, and some students were less prepared and
instead walked the class through how they plan to proceed through the lesson.

October 24th – 31st, 2017

No classes were held because students were in the field completing their 3-day teaching

November 2nd, 2017
Class 19: Discussion of Reading Set 6

After the teaching experience as completed, students were asked to reflect on their 3-day unit.
The beginning of this class provided students time to reflect specifically on the time
commitment of the entire teaching experience, from ideation forward to execution. Students
averaged about 30 hours when all hours were accounted for – which was good for
demonstrating the depth of time commitment teaching requires.

Reading set 6 was discussed for a brief period of time. The reading set contained multiple
examples of project-based instructional units that other teachers and researchers had

November 7th, 2017
Class 20: Reflection on Teaching

Before class on November 7th, students
have completed written reflections
about their PBI teaching experience and
submitted the files to canvas for review
by Denise Eckberg and Daniel Fitzpatrick.
This class period was used to reflect in
class with their peers and Dr. Petrosino
about the challenges and benefits of
executing PBI in a school. Challenges that
students mentioned were (1) time commitment, (2) planning and internalization, (3) classroom
management, and (4) breadth of content covered.

After a brief discussion of the teaching experience, students were informed that they would
pull a 5-minute clip of their teaching and submit it to the professor and TA for review and

The remainder of class was used to discuss the roll of benchmark lessons in PBI. Pizza was
ordered and students spent the last 50 minutes of class working in small groups to define
benchmark lessons, discuss the implications for PBI, and review each other’s work based on the
reading set.

November 9, 14th, 2017
Class 21: Module C Work Day

Dr. Petrosino was out of town for research-related work on the 9th and 14th of November. These
two days were used to circle up with students about the structure and expectations for the
remainder of the semester. Module C is the final task that students are to complete for the
course. Module C consists of a number of assignments where students develop a full project-
based unit rather than a 3-day unit. With input from the students, new deadlines were chosen
for each of the 6 assignments within Module C. The final four reading sets were assigned to
groups of 2 students. Students were informed that they would plan a discussion for their
assigned reading sets, but all students would read the final four sets. Students signed up for
various class periods to lead the final reading sets.

The rest of the class time on both days was devoted to giving students time to work in groups
or individually to begin work on Module C – their final PBI unit.

November 16th, 2017
Class 23: Discussion of Reading Set 7


November 21st, 2017
Class 24: Online Discussion of Reading Set 8

Tuesday afternoon was the last class period before students left for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Dr. Petrosino provided students with the opportunity to have this class meet asynchronously as
long as students committed to posting on canvas about the readings. Students agreed, and
class was held online. Two students, Niah and Julian, began the online class by asking
classmates to post about the challenges and solutions for ELL students in the classroom. They
posed specific questions for the science and math articles for students to answer.

Dr. Petrosino responded to each students’ post. Many of the responses leveraged further
research and readings for students. Culturally responsive teaching was discussed, and a
response from another researcher at UT was used to clarify the true intention of culturally
responsive teaching – rather than the popular notion of what it means in the classroom.

November 23rd, 2017
NO CLASS: Thanksgiving Break

November 28th, 2017
Class 25: Discussion of Reading Set 9


November 30th, 2017
Class 26: Discussion of Reading Set 10


December 5th, 2017
Class 27: Wolves and Yellowstone Presentation

The final class for PBI
was used to
demonstrate a new
technology and teaching
method developed by
Uri Wilensky, Walter
Stroup, Corey Brady,
Carolyn Remmler, and
many other graduate
students. The
technology is called
Group-based Cloud
Computing – the online
software imports agent-based models from NetLogo and allows students to work
collaboratively on these models.

For the PBI students, our goal was to introduce them to the technology and discuss the
implications for learning about complex topics. The content of focus for the day was the
ecological narrative of what happened to Yellowstone when the wolf population became
extinct. Students read about the process of extinction, then looked at a standard 5-E style
lesson that explored the topic. Afterwards, students were introduced to the GbCC Wolves and
Elk simulation designed in collaboration with Mica Kohl, an undergraduate Computer Science
student. Students were given free time to explore the simulations, share simulations to the
gallery, and discuss the nuances of how this could be used in the classroom.

Afterwards, Jason Harron led the
students in using the group-based
participatory simulation “disease”
where students act like infected
individuals and model how disease
transmits throughout a group of