If you’re anything like me, you spend the summer trying to relax with all of your might, but usually end up reflecting and changing your perspective on your classroom. These few months to sit back and truly recharge my classroom have opened my eyes to the value of project based learning (PBL). I have posted a few times about my “new” PBL classroom and provided the first few project templates I created. But, as I share these, I’m hesitant to set hard and fast rules about what your (PBL) classroom should look like. Granted, all PBL classes should have the following hallmarks: start with an intriguing driving question, scaffold learning for students, foster collaboration and communication among students (along with other 21st century skills), and have the project culminate with an authentic product that is shared with a public audience.
But there is absolutely no one-size fits all template for how this actually works in the classroom. Every teacher, every student, and every class is distinctly different and unique (and thank goodness for this!). Some schools have a plethora of resources (technology, community, academic, etc), while others barely have enough to buy pens and pencils. YOU have to make your PBL class work for you. You will not be perfect right away, you will stumble and second guess yourself – but that’s OK. When this inevitably happens to me in the next few months, I am going to ask myself just 1 question:
“Are my students engaged in a memorable and authentic learning experience that teaches
them both content and valuable skills?”
The answer, I hope, will be YES. The rest of it is simply details. Mind/Shift recently published a great article that I highly recommend about how to practice PBL along a continuum (see below). Trust, questioning, collaboration, content, knowledge, purpose are items you should always go back to when planning and implementing your project. Make sure your students have enough direction, but that they get to voice their choices and opinions as well. Make sure the students are collaborating, but are also held responsible for their individual work at times. And always make sure that the project is fun and engaging, but that it also has its roots in a real-world experience that makes the content come alive for them.
Chart: Effective PBL Continua by Peter Skillen & Brenda Sherry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.