How Great Teaching And Learning Grows Under The PBL Umbrella

Oct 3, 2016 | PBL

Growing Great Teaching And Learning Under The PBL Umbrella Framework

by Drew Perkins, Director of ThoughtStretchers Education

“You mean I have to throw out all the work that I’ve done to refine my teaching over the years?”

Our PBL workshop facilitators hear this question, or something similar, with regularity and the answer is, NO! We certainly understand the nervousness or, let’s face it, cynicism that accompanies “another new PD initiative.” We know teachers have become conditioned to believe that the ideas and thinking behind today’s professional development are sure to be replaced with next year’s shiny thing. That is indeed a problem. The difference with project-based learning is that all of those wonderful strategies, tools, and lessons you’ve worked so hard to refine work really, really well in the context of PBL.

Project-based learning in simple terms is a framework, not a pedagogy. PBL does, however, create multiple opportunities for quality pedagogy. As I’ve written about before, PBL is an approach that essentially flips Bloom’s taxonomy and in the process provides a real and authentic context for the teaching that helps students learn what they need to know. You’ll still need to teach and scaffold learning to meet the needs of your students and quite honestly, if you’re not showcasing those best practices you’ve worked so hard to refine then you’re missing the mark.

To help illustrate I’ve marked up the image from my previous blog piece, 8 Basic Steps Of Project-Based Learning To Get You Started, where you can see the process of project design shifting to “Your Great Teaching” toward the end. How you teach, assess, differentiate, and integrate technology are all important parts of PBL and it doesn’t end there. How will you incorporate literacy, numeracy, creativity, and inquiry? How does standards-based grading fit in the picture? How might you use blended and/or flipped learning to maximize your time in the classroom with students? How does your approach foster a growth mindset, and culture where students and teachers are collaborating in quality PLC-type structures?

I could continue but the point here is that the context PBL helps create for learning does not eliminate the need for the work you’ve done to refine your craft but instead shifts the dynamic. Instead of pushing the learning out as a teacher (I’m the teacher and here’s what you need to learn!) you’re pulling thinking and learning from students with rich inquiry (I’m the student, can you help me learn what we’ve identified I need to complete this project?) and are working from a position of commitment instead of compliance.

cavu0o7ukaezk-eFrom a professional development perspective, it’s important for schools and teachers to recognize that while most of our workshops can certainly stand alone they really fit well under the umbrella of PBL. The starting point for most schools is to build the Foundations of PBL and while we often personalize those workshops towards an area of focus like Technology Integration, Differentiation, or Design Thinking we also make it a priority to identify areas like those as areas for growth in our follow-up Continued Growth Visits. Taking this approach not only helps teachers and schools understand the basic framework of PBL but also builds upon the work and wisdom done previously by staff. This perspective may help teachers lower their “PD” defenses while honoring and building upon the work that they’ve done as professionals in the past.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The following GDPR rules must be read and accepted:
This form collects your name, email and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our privacy policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

ThoughtStretchers Education Podcast
ThoughtStretchers Education Podcast

What Is Social Emotional Learning?

What Is SocialEmotional...

What Is Project Based Learning?

Project based learning is an instructional approach that revolves around the creation of a product, using inquiry to identify what students need to know and learn in order to do so successfully.

8 Strategies to Boost Critical Thinking

As we strive to prepare our students for an ever-evolving world, prioritizing the cultivation of critical thinking skills is a powerful step toward their success and empowerment.

Four ‘Circuit Breakers’ That Disrupt Student Inquiry

Creating a classroom environment where the stakes for students don’t feel quite so high, especially when exploring sensitive issues, is crucial. It can help them ask better questions and enjoy intellectual “play” in a way that ultimately leads to deeper thinking and more curious exploration of ideas.

PBL Research: A Guide to Project Based Learning

Learn about project based learning and research in education. Discover the benefits of PBL and how to implement it in your classroom. Get insights from the latest research on PBL.

ThoughtStretchers Education Podcast

We'll be launching our ThoughtStretchers Community very soon!

Join our email list and you'll receive updates about the launch and events and more as we grow. 

*note, this is different from our main ThoughtStretchers Education email list which is focused on our professional development work.

You have Successfully Subscribed!