Where's your head at?

Project based learning, thinking on learning and amazing Art projects

September 23, 2012
by Pete Jones

What is Pebble and Why are we doing it?

The title for this post, refers to the students first two weeks of our project based learning course, where students analyse:

  • What is learning?
  • What helps us learn?
  • What skills and dispositions do we need to be effective learners?
  • How does a project based approach learning help us?

To begin with, we asked students, what skills are needed for;

  1. What you are best at?
  2. The 1, 2, 3 game?- played with increasing difficulty then reflected on..
  3. Your dream job?

After asking each question, lets say a student said they were good at Fifa on their PlayStation or playing the Violin, they wanted to become a racing driver or a vet, it became clear to students that the skills needed to be successful were evident throughout these different questions. It also made them realise that these skills are inherent in pretty much everyone, its our ability to practise and nurture these skills which perhaps separates us as ineffective and effective learners. What was clearly evident was that to be successful, we needed a group of skills which would allow students to improve as learners, to get them from where they are now to where they want to be.

These are the skills/aptitudes came up with:



I asked students to consider from this bank of skills, which would be our most important 4 that we feel shape us as learners and that perhaps we most need to develop this year. After a few rounds of voting, this focus was whittled down to:

Our ability to be: Confident, Passionate, determined risk-takers when learning. Not a bad starting point for successful learners I think you’ll agree. These skills were placed on their avatars for the WHYA scale? with a space for scoring and re-scoring as we go through the year.

Our next task was to explore what helps us learn. We use a traffic light and a long list of words which need to be placed in order of what is really helpful (green) what can be helpful (amber) and what stops us (red). Some are obvious, but some require a deeper level of thought, such as A LACK OF RESOURCES. at first hand, students will always place this in the red, but what happens when we have a lack of resources; we have to think differently, adapt our plans and improvise to make the best of what we have- Now how important is this?

This is done in groups of 4 or 5 and creates a lot of debate and disagreement about what’s helpful for learning!


Students gain greater understanding of why we are doing Pebble by attending seminars, ranging from ‘What Employers Want’, to watching Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Changing Educational Paradigms’. My seminar was on ‘Developing the growth mindset.’  Students had to write down the key points, share their findings with others from different seminars and then figure out what these seminars had to do with our Pebble course.

Distilling understanding.

From all this information, we had to distil their understanding to finally create one sentence which sums up the entire class’s understanding of we are doing Pebble. To start this discussion, I gave students a load of hexagons to write down their key bits of understanding. Then (as SOLO teachers know all too well) asked them to connect these bits of understanding together. I have to say, the quality of discussion this provoked was exceptional for Year 8 students.

Connecting understanding through the use of hexagons

After the hexagon maps were completed, students had to finally agree on and write down their sentences starting with.. ‘We are doing Pebble because….’ and try and sell their vision to the rest of the class. We then voted on a top three and put there words into our class sentence which, in my case was….

Pebble helps us to get the most out of our brain, whilst learning new life skills by taking on challenges and achieving our goals. It helps us move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, helping us discover our full potential!


Each Pebble class printed, drew, painted and created these sentences on a large scale and placed them on the walls of our classrooms to help students recognise the importance of the year ahead and where, with passion, determination, confidence and risk taking, they will end up. It builds momentum for both staff and students to ensure this statement of intent is met and, when things get really challenging, as they do quite often in Pebble, it serves as a reminder of why we are here.

 For homework, students created a 30 second animoto video, using words and statements to sum up their feelings and understanding about Pebble. A few of these can be seen in the links below:



http://static.animoto.com/swf/w.swf?w=swf/vp1&e=1347639029&f=I8PrnmyraV09DCqw1HxOmQ&d=35&m=b&r=360p&volume=100&start_res=360p&i=m&options=” .


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