15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #8 keep the 45 min silo’ed class

9 12 2014

I have the best job in the world. On a regular basis, I’m given the extraordinary fortune to talk with teachers who are embarking on a PBL journey with their students. To dig into the smaller, everyday details of how to make this type of learning environment work. To answer the tough questions about sustainability, rigor, behavior management and then take the questioner further…that’s like chocolate to me! I can’t get enough.

Over the years of starting my own PBL school and learning in a baptismal fire, I’ve been able to find a way to talk with new or reluctant teachers about their concerns. Additionally, there are things that excited, energetic teachers might want to consider as they take their first steps into the PBL fire as well.

In the next month or so, I’ll be publishing a regular series to include 15 common mistakes that educators make and some solutions they might consider. Here’s the next one in the series:

Mistake #8:
Stick with the 42-minute, one topic at a time class schedule.

Problem: It’s difficult to delve deeply into a topic of interest and sustain attention for only a few minutes at a time and to do so 7-8 times a day, in widely varying topics.

Solution: Find creative ways to extend learning opportunities by breaking down the individual silos of time and topic. Real life comes at us, not in silos, but all at once, with “topics” mashed together. Embrace opportunities to find “extra time” by collaborating with other teachers across content, if it’s absolutely impossible to change the schedule. It is absolutely possible to dance inside a straight jacket, if only we intentionally look for and create our own opportunities.

Want to learn more about Project/Problem Based Learning and how to support it?


In 2006 with 12 years of traditional classroom experience and 2 days of formal PBL training in her pocket, Ginger Lewman started a middle school, grades 5-8, that was a 1:1 laptop and Project Based Learning environment. Five years later, the middle school had doubled in population twice and had expanded to include PBL in grades K-8. They were also in the process of opening a PBL high school the next fall. Ginger now works with school leaders in helping them learn how to support the PBL shift, and inspires their teachers to take the leap. Meanwhile, she also continues to co-teach with K-12 teachers in the training process, keeping her own teaching chops sharp and ready.  

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