Real-world experiences, interdisciplinary studies, project-based application, and community partnerships were the focus of teacher training offered this week in Elizabethton City Schools. Elizabethton High School Bartleby Teacher Alex Campbell and Director Terry Smith provided the training with the hopes of informing and inspiring innovative teaching practices throughout the school system.
Project-based learning (PBL) has increasingly been a focus in Elizabethton schools, and it has been amplified through the partnership between the high school’s Bartleby program and the XQ Institute. Now, administrators are taking a systematic approach to teacher training and support as they implement PBL curricula.
Campbell gave examples from his classes of ways that his students were able to learn through projects with experts, and the personal and academic impact they had on his students. “Students are second to none at spotting fakery,” he said. “When you give them something real to do with real consequences, they know it. They prepare, they put in the hours, they even dress up, and they deliver.”
Student presents to the family of Todd McKeehan at student-organized ceremony.
A recent example was his sociology students planning an event to honor the late Todd McKeehan, who died at the raid of the Branch Davidians outside of Waco, Tx. Students applied concepts from history, sociology, writing, and public speaking in group and individual settings and knew their work was leading up to more than an end-semester paper or presentation. They were going to deliver a program with visitors from around the country to McKeehan’s family on the 25th anniversary of his death. “When they see an issue that’s real, they put in a lot more work because they know it matters.”
Campbell emphasized the role of community partners in making project-based learning a success. He said teachers don’t have to be experts on all subjects related to a project, they just have to be able to find experts in the community or state that are eager to work with students. In a time when Carter County population is shrinking, he said these community connections may be the only thing that keep students with marketable skills in this area.
“They will remember how the mayor supported them, how the bank opened an account for them, how the financial advisors came to their class and gave them valuable feedback,” he said. “We may not have a major research facility nearby or the best facilities or the best technology, but we have community, and that’s powerful.”
Bartleby Entrepreneurship student presents business proposal to board of local experts.
Additional PBL training will be provided to all EHS teachers in August by the Buck Institute and funded by the XQ Institute in partnership with Bartleby at EHS. This training is designed to prepare teachers for new 4th period Bartleby Enrichment courses and Bartleby Cyclone Experience, which begin next year. Bartleby Community Improvement and Entrepreneurship courses will continue similarly to the pilot year, and the school will also offer Bartleby Senior Capstone courses and blended core coursework. In addition, the Bartleby team is coordinating an online program and seven new capital projects designed to create presentation areas, flexible learning spaces and virtual labs.
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