Leading the Change: PBL World Style

Image: bie.org

Picture this: Napa California in late June – learning about leading the change for our students – PBL style! What better way is there to finish off another school year! I joined a worldwide group of educational leaders and spent time focusing on empowering 21st century learners and improving teaching and learning with Project Based Learning (PBL). The opportunity to network with other leaders was reaffirming – knowing OCM BOCES is heading in the right direction with our vision to change instructional practices for students in our schools. Focused conversations about making the move from teacher-led, content-driven instruction to student-led, authentic problem solving that weaves 21st century skills and habits of mind with significant content were informative and enlightening. We had the opportunity to answer this driving question: How do we lead high quality PBL in our schools?

Over the two day training, conversations about change kept going back to one essential characteristic of successful PBL-based schools (and really, all successful schools), a positive school culture. We used a great article to focus our conversations, Building Professional Community in Schools. A close read of this article helped us determine conditions that support a positive school community. We then used evidence from the article to complete an action plan template listing Critical Elements or Conditions that Support PBL Culture, both the ideal culture and a district or school’s current reality. It was no surprise to anyone in the room that there is work to be done to build a school culture conducive to PBL and student learning.

Another critical article for our discussions was Michael Fullan’s 8 Forces for Leaders of Change. When we think of putting our moral purpose front and center, we discussed why PBL meets the needs of our world. This got to the root of our beliefs, the “Why” of PBL that drives our leadership. This led to the writing of an elevator speech – a 60 seconds pitch – directed to our stakeholders – which answers the questions, “Why PBL?” A great video to lead into this article is Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on “Start with the Why”.Over the two day training, conversations about change kept going back to one essential characteristic of successful PBL-based schools (and really, all successful schools), a positive school culture. We used a great article to focus our conversations, Building Professional Community in Schools. A close read of this article helped us determine conditions that support a positive school community. We then used evidence from the article to complete an action plan template listing Critical Elements or Conditions that Support PBL Culture, both the ideal culture and a district or school’s current reality. It was no surprise to anyone in the room that there is work to be done to build a school culture conducive to PBL and student learning.

The final big idea that helped us answer the driving question was focused on giving effective feedback to our teachers implementing PBL. Grant Wiggins article, Seven Keys to Effective Feedback, and the Pocket Guide to Probing Questions from the National School Reform Faculty, can help administrators tailor their feedback to teachers about the quality of their projects based on a teacher’s experience with PBL. Leadership – PBL style!

Keim_Joanne_SMALLJoanne Keim
PBL Coordinator
Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES
jkeim@ocmboces.org

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