Last spring, as part of a professional development series organized by Tom Marshall (an Elementary Principal in Paramus, New Jersey), I facilitated three two-hour sessions on project based learning (PBL).
Below is an outline of the five activities that were spread out across the three sessions. In six hours total, the goal was to start with an introduction to PBL and then finish with participants feeling at least somewhat comfortable in designing their own projects. (Yes, we packed in a lot.)
There’s enough here for individuals or groups to work through these activities (or versions of them) on their own, as if it’s a self-paced PBL mini-course. Also, keep in mind, about 10-15 educators took part in the professional development. So, if you plan on using these activities to facilitate learning in your own school or district, some adaptations could be necessary.
Session 1 of 3: What Is Project Based Learning?
Activity 1: What’s the difference between projects and project based learning?
- In small groups, claim a column on this spreadsheet (which you’ll need to copy in order to use) and ask as many questions as you can related to the above graphic and the differences between projects and PBL. Your questions should be recorded in the blue. (10 minutes)
- Transfer your three most important questions from your blue to your red. (5 minutes)
- Group discussion based on everyone’s red questions
- Website – The Right Question Institute
- Handout – An Overview of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT)
- Book – Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions – by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana
- Online Timer
Activity 2: What are the essential elements of project based learning?
- Read, Buck Institute’s Gold Standard PBL: Essential Design Elements.
- In different small groups, using this spreadsheet (which you’ll need to copy in order to use), rank the seven essential design elements from most important to least important (column B). For each ranking, provide justification (column C).
- Group discussion based on everyone’s rankings
What are your next steps?