Dear Friends:
I've been doing some curriculum work around project-based learning recently and I need your advice. We all know PBL works best when certain conditions are in place to support it. What would you say the essential conditions are? I know teacher characteristics, intentions and methods are key, but outside the teachers and students, what else? I'm starting a list and I wonder if you might add to it. Additionally, sometimes the removal of barriers is important, too.

Essential Conditions for PBL strong implementation
  • A school culture that tolerates, even encourages, the sometimes messy chaos of student-directed learning.
  • Access to any technologies that support the teaching and learning enterprise
  • A system of accountability that causes a teacher to demonstrate --and parents and administrators to understand-- that rigorous learning aims are met though the PBL.
  • ?
Remove barriers
  • Reconsider when and where learning takes place. Structure some flexibility (oxymoron!) into the school program so spaces and time are less of a limiting factor.
  • ?

Tags: pbl

Views: 103

Replies to This Discussion

The Role of the Student and the Role of the Teacher need to change considerably. Here are some essential components of our school:

Role of the Student
• Develop Personalized Learning Plan (PLP)
• Recognize preferred learning style
• Determine and follow passionate interests
• Take ownership and responsibility for learning
Empowered by Voice and Choice
• Engage learning with curiosity and passion
• Seek out challenging, authentic projects
• Strive to achieve and succeed
• Collaborate with peers, advisors, and extended community
• Question, challenge and explore
• Communicate ideas, concerns, suggestions, and solutions effectively
Expanded Responsibility
• Be a responsible, proactive, reflective learner
• Earn the trust and respect of others
• Be accountable for actions and recognize the impact on the greater community
• Support and celebrate the accomplishments of others
• Strive to make the community a better place

Role of the Teacher
• Constructivist philosophy: Facilitate/coach an interactive, reflective learning process
• Create and sustain a positive learning culture
• Develop, model, and nurture supportive relationships
• Collaborate with colleagues to maintain an autonomous, self-governing environment
• Structure the day to incorporate advisory circles and sustained silent reading (SSR)
• Promote and facilitate a generative curriculum aligned with a standards-based Scope and Sequence
• Collaborate with colleagues and students to facilitate 21st Century Skill development
• Provide diverse opportunities for learning through projects, collaboration with content experts, and exploration of online resources
• Facilitate learning, creativity, and innovation by solving authentic problems in alternative settings
• Provide an overall framework that celebrates success and unites the school community
I love these guidelines and they give me a better idea of PBL. I'm curious as to how the school day is actually structured to fully accomplish PBL? How are the standards for state testing and PBL met concurrently? This is very hard to imagine in our district's 45-minute class periods.
We start each day with an advisory circle where the teacher/advisor and the students form an actual circle and discuss concerns, experiences, new ideas, etc. This definitely helps to build relationships. There are no specific periods of the day and no bells, so there is a great deal of flexibility in the schedule. There is a specific time for Sustained Silent Reading and for Math, but the rest of the day is flexible project time.
The staff had developed a Scope and Sequence that contains all of the content students must learn. This is aligned to the State Standards. All students are very familiar with the State Standards. They utlize an online program called Project Foundry to facilitate the process of aligning their projects with the Scope and Sequence and the State Standards.
Janet, It's great to hear that Project Foundry supports your work. I think mapping to standards is hard and having activity tagged in PF must certainly help.
Wow these are great! Does your entire school honor these? If so I'd say another school-wide one is "Shared commitment to the values we hold." Are there systems in place that support relationships, rigor, relevance, etc? Example: Would it be OK in you school to not do PE one day and double up on another day so you could give a project take the time it needs?
Yes. Ours is a project based charter school. The system definitely has to change from a rigid structure to a flexible day to make the most of project based learning. We do not have scheduled content classes, except for Math, so it is very possible to double the project time one day and not cover that specific content the next. In many instance the students spend a good part of the day, several days of the week on one project. When that is done, they go one to a new one.
My takeaway then for an essential condition is: Flexibility in schedule. THANKS!
I'd like to know more about your loose structures, Janet.
I would echo Jan's comments, especially around Relationships and Relevance. I think it takes a different student/teacher relationship to get kids to trust and take risks. Teachers need to be more of a coach/mentor than a strict content teacher. Teachers have to model that they are willing to learn along with students.

Also, I think that if you want kids to do projects, the school environment must cater to the developmental needs of adolescents which are: autonomy, belongingness, goal orientation and academic press. This leads to engagement and hope for students (from the hope survey). Schools can't expect to get kids to do amazing projects if the rest of the school environment treats kids as if they are not capable learners (think bathroom passes, hall passes, teachers thinking kids are lazy, little freedom, etc.).
Understanding human development is KEY. Do we ever get inservice on that in practice, or does it get a mention in ed psych during the college years never to be considered again? I get all of this except for the last term, 'academic press', what does that mean? "...developmental needs of adolescents which are: autonomy, belongingness, goal orientation and academic press."

Your mention of the hope survey makes me think about a book I'm reading: Teach Like a Champion: 49 techniques (etc. etc.). . Lemov talks about not letting kids opt out and by that he means don't let them give up on themselves and through your actions build their sense of becoming an accomplished learner (by the ways you handle "I dunno" among other things!)

So your final condition I'd say (correct me if I'm wrong) is: The entire staff holds a shared believe that students can handle rigor and live up to high expectations. Close enough?
Cool that we can upload files. I won't type it in all here, but I attached an explanation of all the hope survey variables.

Your link didn't work, by the way.

The staff sharing the vision is huge. It is interesting, especially in the charter school world when the founder/visionary leaves the school... who keeps the vision living on?

By the way, I am reading: "Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology." Very interesting in relation to the world of education policy that needs to be not just be reformed, but blow up and started from scratch so it serves kids (especially promotes healthy kids).

I hope I am not ranting too much :-/
I linked to the wrong book, but by the same author. This is the correct book:




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