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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

When designing a school curriculum based on PL, how broad should it be?

When designing a school curriculum based on PL, how broad should it be?

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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I am in the midst of designing a pilot PL module for a start up school based on PL. The vision of the school is to bring together Judaic/Religious studies with secular subjects, environmental/sustainability education, arts, technology, personal growth, and community leadership. That is 7 broad core disciplines. What PL design accommodates bridging 7 core disciplines over the course of a year, plus organizing areas of content throughout individual modules? Please advise.

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Malaika Costello-Dougherty's picture
Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for posting. I'm also looking forward to our community's suggestions on your questions.

My best,

Malaika

Terry Smith's picture
Terry Smith
Teacher Education Professor; Project-based classroom teacher

Michael - you ask a very large question when you inquire what design will handle 7 core disciplines. Perhaps you need to start smaller, with an initial big project for one discipline and see how it goes. I have a multi-project plan that I use in my classroom, but I will tell you, it did not come from an initial plan. It cam from extending projects, connecting projects, re-doing and recasting projects, until I had a span of activities. The growth and fit of my projects to the students' likes/dislikes as well as to the curriculum came over time. If a teacher is patient and brings his/her talents to bear while implementing interesting projects with significant technologies, the whole process stays organic. I would not embark on a major plan pre-thought out for handling the whole year with projects; I would acquire expertise and confidence and proceed as best fits the reactions of the kids and the learning observed in the process.

Terry
www.smithclass.org
www.smithbloggers.org

Tristan de Frondeville's picture
Tristan de Frondeville
Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates
Facilitator 2014

Michael,

PBL is only as good as the teacher skills and student skills that move the project(s) forward. Teachers need support and training, and students need the same and from those same teachers.

Great curriculum is always a plus to engaging students and minimizing class discipline issues, but it is never enough. You also need teachers to grow into the skills of managing inquiry, managing accountable high performance teamwork, managing for high-quality results, and managing for high level creativity and critical thinking that is high on Bloom's Taxonomy.

Terry has beautifully described the organic process whereby initial PBL efforts and projects grow into school and community wide, cross-displinary projects.

Please give us more details on your school, the age of students, the schedule (block, or other), the goals you have for your graduates, and the external pressures for performance (tests, parents, etc.)

michal oshman's picture
michal oshman
start up Jewish school with PBL curriculum

Thank you Tristan and Terry for your insightful responses.

Your responses helped me confirm that the sample 6 week long pilot module (designed for7th/8th grades) that we are in the midst of designing for our start up school ought to be small and manageable..."less is more", and leave room for the inquiry and creative process to take hold.

BUt, I am designing a start up school (www.binahschool.org) to open in 3 years which places PL at the center of the school culture.

As the visionary of the school, I want to understand if it is possible to integrate 7 areas of experience (Jewish studies, secular subjects, environmental and sustainability education, arts, technology, personal growth and wellness, and community leadership) into one overarching Project based curriculum with smaller month-long or semester-long units.

The vision of the school is to break out of block scheduling and figure out how to successfully design experiential learning over the course of weeks/semesters/ the year that is comprehensive, yet tightly woven together.

What are some multidimensional ways of thinking about PL as the main methodology of an entire school? Are there examples where PL integrates various aspects of a school culture into one overarching theme with smaller units positioned sequentially to cover all realms of experience over the course of the year?

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

What are some multidimensional ways of thinking about PL as the main methodology of an entire school? Are there examples where PL integrates various aspects of a school culture into one overarching theme with smaller units positioned sequentially to cover all realms of experience over the course of the year?

Hi Michael-
I think the key to this is the idea that over time and with experience, projects grow in scope and complexity. The Critical Skills Classroom model is one that I like- it provides room for growth, integration of multiple disciplines alongside process skills, and linkages between projects so that each builds upon the last. (Full disclosure, though, I work with these folks, so I of course think it's the bees knees...)

:-)

Donelle O'Brien's picture
Donelle O'Brien
dobrien917

At our school, we are looking for and creating curriculum that is focused on a project-learning approach. Are there any resources that you would recommend for online curriculum?

Donelle O'Brien's picture
Donelle O'Brien
dobrien917

I wanted to add that I am reading Reinventing Project Based Learning, by Jane Krauss. Excellent resource to check out!

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