I had my Intro to Engineering students turn in an “up to now” version of what will become their final presentation for the project we are currently working on. I wanted to write a bit about it because it is shaping up to be a very important assignment and I’m learning a lot about project based learning through it.
First, I love that the assignment requires them to think through what they’ve done so far because it is open ended. I didn’t include a rubric like I would for other assignments. So they didn’t have a checklist of what to include, they had to come up with it on their own (although they are on teams, so of course they can talk to their teammates about it). Now that I am giving feedback on the assignment, I’m getting a variety of slide decks and it’s giving me some insight into how the students see the project so far. Some are focusing just on the Inventor modeling they’ve done and less on the construction and some are the exact opposite. And with Classroom’s grading tools, I can quickly give appropriate feedback to everyone. The screenshot above shows one example where the student has a good mix of evidence, but even then there is always room for improvement. You can see in the screenshot that I am giving individual comments on slides and then an overall summary as a comment on the assignment. So it’s this assignment that’s giving me the place to help the teams process what they’ve done so far but then also guide them toward next steps.
I’ve also learned that PBL is very hectic and managing it requires deadlines like the one for this assignment. What I mean is that it is difficult to have a deadline for one specific part of the project, like 3D printing a part for their automaton, because different groups are reaching that point at different times. Some groups have laser cut, some haven’t. Some groups have consulted with their artist several times outside of class and some haven’t. So an assignment like this allows for the teams to show me what they’ve done so far and a good entry looks different for every group.
One thing we obviously need to work on is documentation of ideas. We do plenty of work practicing brainstorming and then actually brainstorming, but most slide decks I’ve seen so far have no evidence of it. It could be that they have it in their notebook and just didn’t include it in the slides and so I commented to most of them that they should include it. But for some, I think they are forgetting to document brainstormed ideas altogether and so we need to work on that. Maybe we could create a template of some sort to make it obvious that it needs to be documented? We’ll see. Always improving!!