George Lucas Educational Foundation

Facilitating Learning in a Student-Driven Environment (Keys to PBL Series Part 4)

When they are directly involved in planning and steering projects, students are more invested in their learning. Get ideas for empowering your students to work independently. If you're new to project-based learning, watch our intro video here.

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Facilitating Learning in a Student-Driven Environment (Keys to PBL Series Part 4)(Transcript)

Liza: So when you're working on projects and you really have student-driven lessons, it can be scary because you don't feel like you're in control, but you really are. If you are planning the right way ahead of time, you are scaffolding every single aspect of that lesson and what the students are doing. You may say to yourself, it's way too much, there's too much to do. But that hard work in the beginning allows it to be completely student-driven and they know that this is their education and that I'm here to support them. I'm not here to tell them what they need to know.

Teacher: What else can we use the lake for besides drinking and fishing? I want you to think about more uses for a lake. Keep thinking, think about the lakes in our community. What kinds of things do we use our lakes for?

Sheela: So it's not about just giving kids a worksheet that the teacher has created to complete. It's about introducing the topic in a way that will build curiosity. It's about being able to provide opportunities for kids to enquire and ask questions around it. It's about providing opportunities for kids to work together to find their own answers to the questions that are posed, or perhaps generate more questions.

Teacher: Just think for a minute and reflect on this idea. What is working well for your group?

Peggy: Teachers need to be very conscious of building in opportunities for reflection, because that's the thing that's very easy to forget. Whether it's setting aside the last three minutes, whether there are benchmarks and when you finish a particular part of the project, you stop reflect on what you've learned so far. Some teachers use a class whiteboard and as things are learned, she stops the class and says, "Let's all gather round for a minute. Let's talk about the things we've learned. Let's reflect on this learning so far."

Sheela: And then the next step would be to really be able to engage in discussion with their peers, to gauge what was the thinking from their partner or their group members and how does that now shape my thinking?

Teacher: I'm really proud to hear how well you're working together.

Liza: So we have learning targets for every day. Sometimes the students write them, sometimes I write them. And I like to have them track themselves on that learning target, either throughout the lesson or throughout the week, if it's a longer learning target. So having them do it themselves gives them that pride in their own education and makes them more engaged in what you're doing. They don't feel like, "Oh, okay, Miss Zeller doesn't think I'm learning anything. I know that I'm learning something, because I'm the one tracking my own learning."

Sheela: I definitely believe that in comparison to a traditional model, A PBL model allows for relevant, rigorous and responsive teaching and learning, that happens each and every day.

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5 Keys Video Series

See Edutopia's core strategies in action with our Five Keys video series. Take a deeper look at each strategy as we share the nuts and bolts of program implementation, give voice to examples from schools around the country, and illuminate the research behind the practices.

 Click here to watch "Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning." 

Learn more about the 5 Keys to Rigorous PBL: 

  • CORE STRATEGY PAGE: Project-Based Learning

    Use this roundup page to discover why project-based learning is a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.

  • ARTICLE: Project-Based Learning Research Review

    Studies have proven that when implemented well, project-based learning (PBL) can increase retention of content and improve students' attitudes towards learning, among other benefits.

Comments (1) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Rmooney's picture

How much more appropriate the term "learning target" is than "goal."


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