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3 AI In PBL Prompt Strategies To Support Design And Planning

May 14, 2024 | PBL, Technology Integration

3 AI In PBL Prompt Strategies To Support Design And Planning

by Eric White, ThoughtStretchers Education Facilitator

The surge of interest in AI platforms like ChatGPT is reaching nearly every area of education, including Project Based Learning. In a recent workshop I facilitated, many teachers were eager to tinker with AI in PBL to support their project development. This interest led us to practice a few prompt engineering strategies (the crafting of inputs that guide AI toward customized outputs) to get the most out of our AI interactions. 

While it can be enticing for teachers to use AI to design a full project in one single prompt, that method leads to generic plans that don’t reflect their classroom contexts and the students they teach. A more strategic approach, like using specific prompt patterns, is needed for more detail and nuance. So, we avoided this unreliable temptation during our workshop. 

With that in mind, let’s explore a few specific patterns that enhanced the thinking of PBL workshop participants, especially prompts that helped address some of the trickier “PBL Pain Points” that arise when designing and planning projects. 

PBL Pain Point 1: Generating Relevant Project Ideas

One of the first steps in a PBL designer’s journey includes identifying key content for the project and drawing out real-world relevance. We want our projects to engage students with experiences that feel deeply authentic to them. However, making these connections can feel challenging and require us to understand the content we teach shows up in the world around us and in our students’ lives. To bridge this gap, let’s explore a prompt pattern that puts a spin on the typical interaction with AI. 

AI Prompt Strategy: The Flipped Interaction Pattern

The Flipped Interaction pattern offers a unique approach to communicating with AI. Instead of the user presenting questions, the flow of inquiry is reversed. Once the AI-powered platform knows your goal and any other conditions you provide, it asks you questions until it has enough information to generate ideas for consideration. 

The Flipped Interaction Pattern in Practice

Below is a sample of how most teachers used this pattern during a recent PBL workshop for their own project development: 

“I would like you to ask me a series of questions to generate a list of authentic, real-world PBL ideas to consider that connect the academic content I need to teach with my students. Continue to ask me questions, one at a time, until you are ready to pitch me three ideas to consider.”

This pattern became a platform for an interactive exchange that led to teachers identifying a high-level project idea to pursue further. And, this strategy received praise from a lot of participants. I remember one teacher commented on how this pattern had the “feel of a real conversation.”

 

PBL Pain Point 2: Mapping Out the Learning Journey

While the Flipped Interaction pattern supported PBL workshop participants with the development of relevant project ideas, they were then challenged with breaking down their broad visions into manageable milestones. Recognizing this, we shifted to a prompt pattern aimed at dissecting our projects while providing AI with a defined template to follow.

AI Prompt Strategy: The Template Pattern

The Template pattern is a strategy that provides a predefined structure to shape AI responses to your exact specifications. When using this approach, we can ensure the output we receive from AI is organized, clear, and strictly aligned to our desired format. 

The Template Pattern in Practice

Let’s check out a sample of the Template pattern a teacher used to support the development of key milestones within their project:

“Create a logical sequence of milestones for a 2-week project in which 10th-grade World History students collaborate in small teams to create and share documentary films that explore the impact of the Industrial Revolution on modern society. The following represents the template I want you to follow with your output: MILESTONE TITLE, TIME ALLOCATION, ACADEMIC CONTENT ADDRESSED, SEQUENCE OF ACTIVITIES AND ASSESSMENTS.”

Using variations of the template pattern helped participants feel encouraged that their project ideas were both manageable for students and could realistically align with curriculum requirements and time constraints.

 

PBL Pain Point 3: Anticipating and Generating Needed Resources and Materials

Even with high-level PBL ideas and manageable milestones in place, PBL workshop participants still needed to navigate how to anticipate, create, and organize resources and materials for their projects. A major component of this challenge was identifying and responding to the diverse range of their students. That led to us practicing the Persona pattern to gain insights for possible scaffolds and tools needed for the success of all students.   

AI Prompt Strategy: The Persona Pattern

The Persona pattern is an approach where we direct AI to adopt a specific identity and generate responses that reflect that persona’s perspective. Prompting AI to embody different personas can offer us unique viewpoints and depth in our interactions. 

The Persona Pattern in Practice

After sharing the project overview and associated key milestones with AI, PBL workshop teachers then used persona-based prompts to gain ideas for supporting various subsets of students. One teacher used the following structure for her Persona prompt pattern: 

“You are an English Language Learning expert. What key areas of my project might ELL students need the most support? What specific tools and resources do you recommend? Include ideas for each milestone.”

This technique resulted in recommendations for each milestone that supported the teacher with ideas for supporting ELL students with achieving learning goals and successfully completing project tasks. While this specific teacher addressed a language need, other PBL workshop participants created personas that addressed learning preferences, student strengths, and other dispositions. These prompting efforts ultimately resulted in more personalized project experiences.

 

One Final Note: Iterate and Keep It Human

As you interact and use patterns to enhance your project development, iterating and refining initial prompts are key to receiving AI responses that best suit your goals. Over time, you’ll notice that those refinements will even further tailor the support you receive. 

And, as we practice integrating prompt patterns, it’s critical to remember that AI cannot and should not replace the human insights and spirit we all bring to the table. By leveraging AI prompt patterns to supplement (not supplant) our thinking, we can alleviate certain “PBL Pain Points” with an interactive process that is both efficient and empowering. In other words, AI shouldn’t replace our human touch but it certainly has the potential to lighten the load!

Let’s Learn Together

The patterns shared above are just the “tip of the proverbial iceberg” of prompts we can leverage for support. If you are interested in how to leverage AI to supercharge the PBL design and planning process, contact us today to learn more about our AI-Powered PBL workshop.

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