A handful of years ago, my school district began a project based learning (PBL) initiative and has since continued these efforts in the form of an initiative on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. As a result of the district placing their stamp of approval on these approaches to teaching and learning, I have witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of teachers who are promoting classroom projects, inquiry-based learning, and collaborative education.
This year, my school’s professional development committee decided to make PBL one of the main focuses of teacher learning, and I could not be happier. This is an initiative that I am helping to lead, along with one of the fifth grade teachers in my school. My colleague and I are teaching three sessions on PBL (two of which have already taken place). All sessions are exactly the same (more or less), and each teacher is required to attend one of the three sessions.
In preparation for the classes, my colleague and I set up a course on Moodle, where we posted the most useful PBL resources that we could find. The idea was to design the course in the user-friendliest way possible, so attendees would not hesitate to use it when planning their projects throughout the year. Some of what we posted includes:
- Buck Institute for Education: Project Based Learning Tools
- Buck Institute for Education: Project Overview
- 8 Essentials for Project Based Learning by John Larmer and John Mergendoller
- The Common Core is the “what.” PBL is the “how.” by David Ross
- A Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Projects by Marko Nobori
- Six Affirmations for PBL Teachers by Andrew Miller
- Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project Based Learning by Andrew Miller
- Defining Assessment by Grant Wiggins
- “Yes, but…” – Misconceptions About Standards-Based Reforms by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe
Then, the in-class instruction focused on such topics as: the difference between PBL and projects, differentiated instruction, assessment, rubrics, and technology integration. In all instances, each topic was presented in the context of PBL. Also, a great deal of time was provided for collaboration amongst teachers. In one instance, they were asked to rank in order of importance the eight essentials for project based learning (according to the Buck Institute). Towards the end of the session, attendees were provided with time to work on their projects. The goal is for each grade level team to implement at least one project based learning experience during this school year, and time will be provided for these teachers to share their work and experiences.
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