Rigor and Relevance in PBL – How do we get there?


© OCM BOCES Instuctional Support

I was in a coaching session with a team of middle school teachers that had been trained in the Buck Institute for Education’s (BIE) model of Project Based Leaning (PBL) and we were reviewing their PBL plan when a teacher asked, “How do we know if the products we are thinking of would be the best choices for this project?” As a visual learner, I quickly thought of an easy way to show the importance of the alignment between the standards, the driving question (DQ) and the public products in PBL. To get to a Gold Standard level of PBL, we know that this is an important aspect of creating an engaging project that is rigorous and relevant for students.

Quickly drawing a triangle, I placed “DQ” at the top corner, “Standards and Success Skills” at the left corner and “Public Products” at the right corner. Because PBL is standards-based, and rigor is important for getting students to think deeply about the standards, we started at the left corner and listed the reading for information, writing for information, speaking and listening and content standards that they believed students would be mastering during the project. We added in the Success Skill they were going to be teaching and assessing (collaboration, a natural choice for middle school students). Then, we moved up to the DQ, and wrote that out. Finally, we moved to the right corner and listed the individual and group public products. As we sat back and examined our work, a conversation started about the sides of the triangle representing the “lines of alignment”. This led to an analysis of the information in the corners to see if each corner was aligned to the other corners.

Wow! What resulted was a focused and reflective conversation. Some of the topics included whether ALL of the standards were being assessed by the public products (the list was whittled down) and was the DQ tied to the standards. As we looked at the individual and team public products, the teachers realized that the products assessed the standards and collaboration but the team product didn’t answer the DQ. They decided the DQ was exactly what they wanted to drive the inquiry so we brainstormed ideas for public products aligned more closely to the DQ and decided on a new team public product. Success!

Try it out when you plan your next project, and, along with using the project design rubric, see if it will help you reach your goal of Gold Standard PBL!

Keim_Joanne_SMALLJoanne Keim
PBL Coordinator
jkeim@ocmboces.org

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