As I embark on another year of coaching teachers around Project Based Learning, I realize that understanding the “what and why” of PBL is only half the battle; It is time now to focus on the “how”. How do we move beyond surface-level implementation of projects toward deeply embedded inquiry-based practice? Teaching this way is not a way of “doing”, rather it is a way of “being”. To help frame my thinking, I revisited a blog post by John Larmer and John Mergendoller where they highlight PBL teaching practices. In it, they outline 7 practices necessary when moving from design to implementation.
This led me to ask the following when coaching teachers to shift from planning to practice:
- Is the work of the project aligned to the standards?
- Are students self-directed risk-takers motivated to guide their own learning?
- Is work time balanced and productive?
- Is inquiry scaffolded to meet the needs of all learners?
- Does the learning environment embrace and act on a balanced assessment system?
- Are students and teachers engaged in a partnership around shared goals?
I think if teachers start with those questions around Teaching Practice, they can acquire a PBL “habitude” as they engage, facilitate, and coach students towards understanding, while also supporting the acquisition of skills necessary for future success.
So how do we move teachers towards this habitude of authentic learning? I think I might start by providing an opportunity to dig into the Project Based Teaching Rubric so they may gain clarity and shared understanding of what Gold Standard teaching looks like. I might have them choose to focus on one or two practices; then the real work starts. Once we know the outcomes we seek, we can collect data that tells the story of the practices, evidence that proves where the teaching lies. We will look to student work, public products, interactions and assessments to see if we are being true to Gold Standard PBL Practice so that we might continuously engage in a craftsmanship that leads to powerful teaching and learning. It is arduous work, but thanks to rich resources like the Project Based Teaching Rubric and Project Based Teaching Practices, we have a clear picture of where we can take students! With the right “habitude”, the sky really is the limit!
PBL Trainer and Coach at OCM BOCES