15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #12: learning only happens at school

6 01 2015

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 #12:
Think that school is school and home is home and our days are only 8hrs long.

Problem: While both teachers and students certainly deserve time to be with their families and not at work, the reality is that we’re no longer controlled by the factory whistle in our work or lives. Time is now a variable in the world, and if students are starting to uncover and work inside their interest and passion areas as we design our PBL units, we might run into some very real accessibility barriers.

Solution: With time as a variable in the world, we must now find ways to be flexible in the school schedule. Will teachers and students be able to choose a later start-time to the day? Will weekends or evenings be an option for students, especially as they get into the upper levels? Infinite flexibility isn’t attainable — at first. But with flipped and blended learning environments, we can certainly get closer. What other options are at our disposal? Evening office hours online? Early mornings? Ideas are infinite. How we choose to implement those ideas is our only barrier.

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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