Project learning can inspire the best of high-performance teamwork, or it can be devolve into unfocused chaos. How can we support each other to keep our eye on the prize? Share your project ideas, questions, and implementation experiences.

Conditions that support project learning

Jane Krauss Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

Some essential conditions need to be in place for pbl practices to really take hold and so kids can accomplish marvelous things.

I've been doing some pbl program planning recently and I need your advice. We all know PBL works best when certain conditions are in place. What would you say those essential conditions are? I know teacher characteristics, intentions and methods are key, but outside the teachers and students, what else? I'm starting a list and I wonder if you might add to it. Additionally, sometimes the removal of barriers is important, too.

Essential Conditions for PBL strong implementation

* A school culture that tolerates, even encourages, the sometimes messy chaos of student-directed learning.
* Access to any technologies that support the teaching and learning enterprise
* A system of accountability that causes a teacher to demonstrate --and parents and administrators to understand-- that rigorous learning aims are met though the PBL.
* ?

Remove barriers

* Reconsider when and where learning takes place. Structure some flexibility (oxymoron!) into the school program so spaces and time are less of a limiting factor.
* ?
I appreciate your help!

Comments (34)

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Instructional Designer | Canisius College

Community Resources

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I would also add something about utilizing community resources. Project based learning doesn't just have to happen on school time, or on school grounds. It can branch out into the community. Also, teachers can bring in community experts and resources.

Principal of a Secondary School in Bristol, UK

Teachers should recognise

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Teachers should recognise that their professional status lies first and foremost in their understanding of pedagogy. In PBL teachers must become facilitators of learning. They must develop excellent questioning techniques that will draw out the best from students, be their to encourage, motivate and at the end of the day - be another resource for the student.

Mathematics Guide

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Time and Patience.
I'm working with a group of students right now building a bike shelter. We have the luxury of time, being in a week long, end of year intensive.
It seems that one of the critical aspects of the prepared environment for project based learning is time – time to explore, time to make mistakes, and time to learn.

Barriers

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Lack of understanding by educators of formative assesment tools (ie: rubrics). Training in utilizing these tools by both student and teacher will enhance the PBL experience and allow even greater challenges to be issued.

Lack of accountability of the students to complete the projects. This must be done or the PBL will not be as affective as its potential. Motivating the students to become invigorated and excited about their projects and still held accountable by being able to maintain a living project will help maintain that accountability. I have discovered, that if the project becomes simply an assignment not a living project that is sharable, they are not as involved nor are they as productive.

PBL

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Remember you are the actual facilitator in PBL. You are guiding their thinking skills by posing questions and helping not giving answers. Time will be essential and can take longer than a "standard" lesson. However, the experience and learning that takes place out weighs the time difference. If you plan carefully, based on your Pedagogy or Standard Course of Study you can meet all your required goals and still have plenty of time left over.

I know this from experience having been out 3 weeks this year as well as losing 3 weeks for End of Grade Testing/Remediation all goals were met.

My students remembered their PBL experiences and content better than the "standard" lessons I presented to them. That was one of the most important things I learned from them at the end of the year when I asked them what they would have changed about the year. Their response was to have done more PBL and less "standard" as it was easier to remember and understand.

They also said they enjoyed the opportunities to evaluate each other by following rubrics based on guidelines they helped develop.

Community Technology Executive for OneCommunity in Cleveland Ohio.

I'm not directly involved

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I'm not directly involved with PBL, but through conversations with PBL teachers one aspect that seems to come up over and over is the accountability for core competencies while students are engaged in PBL projects. There need to be mechanisms/assessments that ensure that students have mastered basic competencies through the PBL learning. Some are evident, for example, if a student has to write a formal business letter as part of their project, the teacher has an artifact for verifying the student has demonstrated those skills.
Facilitating PBL to ensure all of the students have mastered their core competencies and completed the project goals is going to require a learning management system that has strong personalization and assessment capabilities, if this type of learning experiences is going to scale.

Sometimes messy, chaotic, or seemingly so, and a Bit Noisey

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An interim principle who was not familiar with these kinds of learning projects, group activities, only heard that we were pretty noisey and stated that no learning could possibly be going in my classroom. My previous principal knew what I was doing and said my teaching was exemplary and I raised my students scores, receiving a large cash bonus. After she was gone, he did not support this.

That same week, I graded an average of 7 assignments per student. No work done, huh?

(High School Freshman, Social Studies, average class size 29. How could that be quiet?)

Patty I am glad that you

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Patty

I am glad that you mentioned rubrics since these are so helpful for the teacher grading and for the students to understand what "success" if supposed to look like.

Until about 4 years ago, most of my fellow staff members did not know how to create one effectively. Many had not even heard of them.

Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

Re: Michael's words re: Time and Patience

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Quote:

Time and Patience.

Nice. I am looking at the difference between school and work environments/conditions and time is certainly a challenge. In work the task defines the timeline. In school it's often the other way around!

Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

Re: Formative assesment, Accountability

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Lack of understanding of formative assesment tools... Training in utilizing these tools by both student and teacher will enhance the PBL experience and allow even greater challenges to be issued.
Lack of accountability...

These go hand in hand don't they? A great rubric serves as a road map so everyone understands where the project is headed. With clear understanding accountability and stick-to-itiveness are more likley. Thx.

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