Driving Question: Can the Use of Project-Based Learning Take Teachers from “Effective” to “Highly Effective”?

Common Core GraphicRecently I was looking over the Lead Evaluator resources from a training we provide here at OCM BOCES and was struck by a few things in regard to the work I do with PBL.

As I read through the training materials, I discovered what makes a teacher “Effective” is that they “Show evidence of thorough knowledge of all aspects of the profession.  Students are engaged in learning.  This is successful, accomplished, professional, and effective teaching.” (Lead Evaluator PPT Day1, 2013). The 7 NYS Teaching Standards and elements is the framework by which teachers will be observed and evaluated to see if they are “Highly Effective”, “Effective”, “Developing” or “Ineffective”.   As I read through each of the 7 NYS Teaching Standards I did a cross-walk of each of the Standard’s Elements and the 8 Essentials of PBL.   What struck me was the fact that a fully implementing PBL teacher would live each element of the NYS Teaching Standards each time they implement a highly engaging, real-life project where all 8 PBL essentials are present.

There are 3 priorities in the NYS Teaching Standards: Engagement, Constructivism, and 21st Century Readiness.  When a teacher creates a well-planned, standards based, real life project they also create a learning environment where the standard priorities can flourish.  Project-Based learning experiences cause children to be actively and interactively ENGAGED in their learning.  PBL teachers do this by developing: a well-crafted need to know, a thought provoking driving question, an exciting entry event, and by allowing opportunities for voice and choice around an in-depth, real life inquiry project.  This learning environment engages children through purposeful common core learning through rigor and relevance.    Project-Based learning experiences also give learners multiple opportunities to work and rework and offer and receive peer feedback toward continued growth and improvement of the final project in true CONSTRUCTIVIST form.  Students in Project-Based environments learn, model, and practice the 21st Century Skill of Career and College Readiness and have opportunities to assess and be assessed by others on a continuum of growth through constant feedback, personal reflection and the use of group and individual rubrics.

The use of Project-Based Learning can definitely assist a teacher to be seen as “EFFECTIVE” but as I read on, the Lead Evaluator training defined “HIGHLY EFFECTIVE” teachers as facilitators where “Classroom functions as a community of learners with student assumption of responsibility for learning. “ I realized this is the ultimate goal of Project-Based Learning. In Project-Based Learning environments the teacher’s role is one of facilitator and/or project manager, learning alongside their students. The students have more autonomy to guide their learning through voices and choice and are provided an engaging real-life application of the common core learning standards.

I invite you to take the time to do your own cross-walk of the NYS Learning standards and the 8 Essentials of PBL. You may also discover PBL practices can cause you to become “HIGHLY EFFECTIVE”!


Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw-Staff Development Specialist
Trainer for Project-Based Learning for OCM BOCES

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