Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Am I a PBL Cheat?

My students (yes, the same ones who did this project) began a new PBL unit today, but with a twist.  The unit focuses on Devarim Perek 15 (Deuteronomy Chapter 15) and related sections, which basically outline the Torah's economic system - gifts to Priests, Levites, and the poor; the seven-year cycle whereby the land rests (shemitta) and loans are forgiven; the 50 year cycle (yovel) whereby slaves go free and land is returned to its original owner; and the laws of Jewish and non-Jewish slavery.  The overall goals of the unit are for my students to connect these laws together and envision how a Jew living under those laws would balance their checkbook, as it were.

However, in lieu of them creating a final project, I am creating the project.  Obviously feeling that I have way too much free time on my hands, I am working to create more or less The Game of Life based on all of these laws.  When the unit is complete, the students will have to play the game and their success will be based on how well they learned the material.

I will admit up front that there is still a lot of work to do.  I am not completely sure how the game will work, and I am not completely sure how I will give them a grade.  But all of those are secondary considerations as far as this post is concerned.  My question right now is whether or not I am cheating on the principles of Project Based learning?  Generally, the point of PBL is for students to use their final project as a driving force to guide their learning.  As they come closer and closer to creating the project, their visions of the project interact with their learning process to make their path of inquiry fuller and more genuine.

However, I have now removed that final goal from their sights.  They no longer can envision the final product, since the product will not be something they create but rather how well they are prepared to face the world - or at least the imagined world that I create.  In a sense, they themselves become their final project.  Sounds cool - but is it PBL?  Thoughts and comments welcome.


Anonymous said...

Why are you so caught up in the PBL label?

If you think this is the most effective way for your students to learn this material (I had written "to teach this material," but that's not the point), then this is the way to go.

Aaron Ross said...

Your last sentence is the point - I am wondering if this twist will take away from what I consider to be an effective way for my students to learn. So far, so good - but we have a while to go.