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I agree with the previous

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I agree with the previous poster that faculty participation in creating the curriculum guarantees a certain amount of buy-in the process.

Our elementary school is an IB candidate school and we are entirely project based and inquiry led. When we began this journey a few years ago, teachers from all different grade levels and disciplines as well as administration worked together to match standards with the units of learning for the year.

Throughout the year, we meet as a faculty once or twice to do vertical planning making sure there are no overlaps.

I think one of the most important components of PBL is to reflect frequently on what worked and what did not and make adjustments along the way. PBL is fluid and to continue student engagement and teacher investment reflection and improvements need to be made along the way.

Chief Academic Officer at the Green Street Academy Foundation

Standards Map

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Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

In my experience, you are absolutely correct: the faculty must be intimately involved at every level. The GSA Standards Maps are all created by the faculty working together. Currently, that involves a 30 ft white board with subjects listed down the side and the standards spread across the board. In that way, the faculty are easily able to see how their standards may be connected (opportunities for collaboration and synergy), the resources they may need for any given project (both material and personnel), which standards may not be covered by a project series, and which standards may be "bundled" together and which must stand alone.

In addition, the entire way that we've approached PBL implementation at GSA is through faculty design. By its nature, PBL does not lend itself to typical PD in which you demonstrate a method or unit and then faculty practice it. Real PBL, in my opinion, may best be implemented by faculty developing it through their own PBL experience in which creating PBL standards becomes the product.

Your comment regarding interpersonal learnings is well received, and an issue with which we are still concerned. Part of the process towards which we are working is to have a flexible learning plan in which PBL is an integral part of every student's day, but not the only instructional mode. We are working towards using actual student assessment data to identify student instructional needs, and create Preparing for Success modules for small cohorts with similar needs. GSA is opening its high school next year, and that model defines its design already.

Multiple Intelligences

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I would be curious to learn who was involved in the creation of the standards map. Making curriculum relevant to students is definitely a way to increase how much students remember, but allowing teachers to be a part of the process of deciding how curriculum is taught also increases relevance for them and their buy-in.

You mention that you are working through the issues of students have a difficult time working cooperatively. Some students do better at learning individually and therefore do have reservations about working with a group. I know that in order for students to be career and college ready they must be able to communicate and collaborate effectively with a group and these are skills that must be taught. In a school focused on teaching everything through PBL where interpersonal learners may flourish, I would be interested in learning about what are you doing to make sure you are also reaching your intrapersonal learners?

I would find out more details about your project and the results you see after this year. Good luck!

8th Grade Humanities Teacher, High Tech Middle - San Diego, CA

Project Based Learning, PD and Managing Chaos

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Project based learning is, most of the time chaotic, and often full of planned mistakes. Allowing students to have opportunities to try things and fail as a part of the process, rather than a penalty seems to give teachers and students the freedom to create something big. Projects that keeping kids engaged are projects that are “Bigger than themselves”, says Micah, 9th grade student at High Tech High. For one PD session at High Tech Middle we invited former students and ask them what makes good projects great. Micah says that work that matters has to be something that if you saw it you would say, “Wow, kids did that?” I am not convinced or certain that common core standards are the solution for discovering or building these projects Micah was talking about, but I do know that Project Based Learning is a great way to address them.

Students that get more time working in teams, thinking, designing, problem-solving and tackling adult world problems makes a huge difference for kids. Building culture in a project based school requires tons of dedication and designing projects that provide time for relationships is essential. We spend weeks developing strong relationships in our classrooms otherwise the challenging projects would never be more than “Project-Based Standards.” Congrats on taking on challenging and essential work GSA! I look forward to hearing more about your progress.

Chief Academic Officer at the Green Street Academy Foundation

Essential PD for PBL Implementation

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In the beginning, the Green Street Academy faculty were much like any other high performing instructional group. They were more than competent, cared passionately about their scholars, and had a real interest in honing their art and craft. In short, they were pretty good at what they did.

What they did was much in line with what we know about best practices, with particular twists for working with inner-city middle school students. And, the scholar's achievement scores on Maryland State testing instruments showed good progress.

That work, though, was mostly interactive "stand and deliver," albeit with multi-sensory (and other best practices) elements, and still about a third of the students were not performing well. The faculty was ready for something beyond the ever-narrowing effectiveness of cyclical pedagogical reform, ready for something that might reach many more scholars.

But, they were trained in typcial methods and had a high comfort level with their knowledge, even though what they knew to do wasn't reaching a very high percentage of scholars.

So, the first part of PD at GSA is a review of the last 100 years of school reform--what it is, how it came about, why it does or does not work. In our case, we focus heavily on urban and inner-city pedagogical reform. Once teachers see the cyclical nature of school reform and understand how those reforms continue to hone the same basic pedagogical model (and thus continue to narrow its effectiveness), they begin to ask important questions about how to reach their scholars.

Those questions then formed the next phase of PD development at GSA in which we created a two-day PD that is essentially a Project Based Learning project. That project is designed to enable faculty to identify what skills/standards are necessary for our middle school scholars to be successful in a true PBL environment. Once they've identified those standards, they developed projects to meet them.

This is a long way around to say that it is my belief that if you approach PBL PD in the same way that you approach other PD, you will fail to imbed it with your faculty. It is not enough to simply present it (interactively though that presentation may be) with examples. Because true PBL requires faculty to teach as inquiry leaders, each school's approach to PBL will be different and specific to that school's needs.

The PD for creating that PBL environment has to incorporate a careful respect for what faculty know (and have been doing) with a gentle push towards a likely unknown with potentially high academic achievement returns.

Teacher for 31 yers ( Computer Science, Physics Biology)

These are free templates that

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These are free templates that can be shared with anyone using eWalk for classroom observations, or eWalkPLUS for teacher appraisals. The app that uses the templates also is free, but you need an eWalk account to load any templates onto an iPad, iPhone, Blackberry or Android device.

Prof. Dev. Provider --Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium

Is the app released, yet?

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Is the app released, yet?

Teacher for 31 yers ( Computer Science, Physics Biology)

Tracking Common Core Standards

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I have just built a tracking tool for the Common Core Standards for the iPad and Android tablets ( It could also be used on Smart Phones). It allows you to either track the standards being covered by the class, or track the mastery of each standard for each student in the class. It is modeled after the outcomes based assesment that we have been doing in Canada for over 15 years. What is unique about this tool is that when several teachers are using it, you can see the accomplishments of any student in all of their classes, as the common core standard mastery of a student in all classes is automatically aggregated.

Prof. Dev. Provider --Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium

PBL and professional development

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As Olga posted above, it would be very helpful to know in what PD your teachers were engaged and what specific aspects of the PD you found to be crucial.

PBL and professional development

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In a future post, I'd love to hear more about professional development. What kind of PD program do you have? What support do teachers get in order to prepare them for this type of transformation, both ahead of time and during implementation? Thanks.

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