Introducing the Project
In the first part of the project, learners research energy resources. Mr. Hlabana chooses websites for learners to use for their research. He specifically chooses sites of various levels of difficulty so that all learners start with the essential information. Then, more advanced learners can move forward at their own pace. Mr. Hlabana asks learners to complete assessments on their content knowledge and record their responses as they work, so they, and he, can check their understanding.
Mr. Hlabana supplements the Web investigation with lessons and activities in class on the scientific concepts learners need to complete the project. He uses questioning strategies to involve all levels of learners by preparing specific questions and discussion points addressing the different levels of assessment standards. He then carefully chooses which questions to ask to specific learners. By asking different levels of questions about the content, Mr. Hlabana knows where he must make adjustments. Sometimes, Mr. Hlabana designates peer tutors to help struggling classmates. This requires building a community atmosphere in which all learners feel safe learning from each other and respecting differences.
For the final project, learners conduct their own research and present the decision processes they used to select the car of their choice. Before beginning this project, learners create a project plan. First, Mr. Hlabana distributes a rubric delineating the criteria for the project. Next, he asks learners for their ideas about how they plan to show that they have understood the important concepts and done their best work. He includes several of their ideas in the rubric.
Mr. Hlabana has noticed in the project plans of previous projects that his learners had trouble breaking down tasks into steps that could be accomplished in a class period or less. Because of this, they had difficulty monitoring their own progress effectively. For this project, Mr. Hlabana takes some class time to explain and model how to break large tasks into smaller activities, such as conduct research, narrow a topic, locate resources, and evaluate resources. He also holds small-group mini-lessons for interested learners on using ICT to create flowcharts, diagrams, and forms that can help track progress.
As learners work on their plans, Mr. Hlabana conducts informal meet with learners. During the meetings, Mr. Hlabana asks probing questions to help learners refine their plans and address issues of scientific investigation. Mr. Hlabana enlists the help of the support staff to assist learners with special needs in completing their plans, but all learners are encouraged to complete as much of the plan as they can by themselves and with the help of their peers.
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