“How can we develop our first AUTHENTIC PBL project that is RIGOROUS and COMMON CORE focused?” is our driving question for the 4-day PBL-101 training we do at OCM BOCES. We as PBL trainers and coaches stress the importance to design a project that has learners developing authentic individual and team products and/or performances that can serve as the assessments for content standards. Developing a rigorous project requires teachers to first unpack their standards to clarify the “know” and “do” of their content standards. This backwards design of the project will then help the teacher to think deeply about their content standards to best match an authentic product and/or performance that would target the “know” and “do” of their standards. We also encourage teachers in all content areas to do the same process with the Common Core ELA standards, because every PBL experience includes “In-Depth Inquiry” (one of the 8 essentials of PBL), Reading for Information standards should be included in the PBL plan. Teachers can then design workshops around the skills needed to apply the skills of informational reading within the project. Every PBL Project also needs to include the Common Core Writing Standards, because authentic writing will also be part of the product/performance in every project. Another 8 Essential of PBL is the Public Audience. This essential requires students to share their learning will a broader audience beyond their classroom, so presentation skills will need to be taught and assessed. This brings in the Common Core Speaking and Listening standards also. The BIE rubrics for 21st Century Skills for Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Creativity should also be reviewed to see which will be added to the project to teach and assess throughout.
Steps to an authentic rigorous project:
Step 1: Unpack your standards and clearly define the “knows” and “dos”.
Step 2: Think of an authentic project idea that will foster the learning of the standards with Individual and Team products/performances. Then assign the standards that will be learned and assessed to each.
Step 3: Look at the Individual and Team Products/Performances to develop Learning Targets (I Can Statements), Formative Assessments and Instructional Strategies that will take place during the project.
Step 4: Something NEW I have been doing with my groups I coach is taking the “Learning Targets/I Can Statements” and turning them into rubrics for the Individual and Team products. Sometimes a planning team might want to seek out a specific rubric for their project, but to me, the learning targets define exactly what we want children to know and be able to do at the end of the inquiry process of the project.
Doing this type of planning up front before actually launching the project will help clarify outcomes for the teacher and the student and keep the project focused on the common core and content standards. Taking the time to plan using the backwards design will assure the project is “…rigorous, authentic and common core focused.”
Background: The examples used for this blog are from a project called “The Ancient Civilization Shark Tank” from Willowfield Elementary School, part of the Liverpool School District. I have been coaching the 6th grade team: Alison Ellsworth, Hope Everts, Amy Esposito and Library Specialist Penny Sweeney and Art Teacher Danielle Ruggiero throughout the school year. Only portions of the project plan were shared in this blog. In order to save space, only the individual portions of the project were shared above. Please know that there is also a Team Product page that articulates the Learning Targets, Checkpoints/Formative Assessments and Instructional Strategies and a rubric that matches. At the end of this project there will be two rubrics to assess the standards for the INDIVIDUAL and the TEAM accountability of the project. 21st Century Rubrics developed by the Buck Institute will also be used to assess the skills the project intends to teach and assess.