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Project Based Learning Spotlight: Special Diets

April 20, 2017 | Filed in Archive

Each month, Project Spotlight will focus on a certain aspect of Project Based Learning (PBL). This month we focus on the Special Diets Project and highlight peer critiquing.

Does algebra have real world applications? You bet!

students sit at tables working together

Students engage in a peer critiquing conversation based on their Special Diets Project.

Students in Heather Leo’s Algebra class designed meal plans that consider the Students in Heather Leo’s Algebra class designed meal plans that consider the nutritional constraints of specific diseases they chose to study. Using new algebra skills, the students graphed the constraints to show how to provide optimal nutrition for people suffering from the selected disease. They presented their findings to a registered dietitian from a local nursing home, advocating for the special diet they created.

Besides learning how to apply math skills in a real world setting, the students also focused on analyzing each other’s work. In project based learning there is no such thing as “one and done.”

The critiques offered such comments as “everything was organized and neat,” or “he could explain some parts of the project but not others.” Students offered concrete suggestions, such as “You should work on the math part of the project, explain what the nutritional constraints are and have a finished product.” They sometimes prompted their peers to “speak loud and clear” and “have words with some definitions on the ready.”

Many offered encouraging words too, such as, “Be calm and don’t be scared, speak clearly.” From these comments, teams were able to adjust their project before the final presentation.

The ability to critique doesn’t come naturally. Students use protocols such as Critical Friends and Socratic Seminars to learn how to analyze and reflect on work they have done. They regularly refer to their project rubrics so they know exactly what the expectations are and what they need to do to reach proficiency. Their developing skills help students at Ag PTECH learn to persevere through challenging problems, reflect on how and why they are learning, and see how they can use what they learn in the real world.

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