15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #14: compare apples to oranges

20 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 #14:
Compare new PBL innovations with research lessons collected in traditional environments.

Problem: We hear the phrase “research based” each year in every professional learning session. There’s a lot to be desired in following proven strategies. However, if we’re going to try a new approach or strategy inside a school doing something beyond what a traditional school usually does, we might want to look more closely at what “research based” means in this new environment. A strategy that is proven effective (or not) in a traditional classroom might have radically different results in an innovative environment. Then again, it might work well.

Solution: Before we put all our eggs in the “research based’ basket, we might want to look deeper at the strategy, the methodology for the research, and then consider our community. Can we create small, pilot groups to try out an idea first? And before we allow people to say we’re not “research based,” we might consider creating and collecting our own action research to track the viability and process of our shifts.

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.  





15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #13: too much too soon

13 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 #13:
Expect too much, too soon with no plans for adjustment.

Problem: This mistake is related deeply to Mistake #9  (mandating all teachers fully participate, right now). Not all teachers have the temperament for letting go of the traditional approach to teaching, meaning being the deliverer of high-quality information and ensuring all students are exposed to the same materials, equally. Not all teachers are willing to let go of what is mostly working for them to grab on to something that doesn’t have the 122 year track record that our current system does. And what happens when you find that your community didn’t embrace the change in the same way you thought they would, based on what was promised to them in the initial meetings?

Solution: Again, unless that’s a magic wand in your pocket, there must be some room built in for adjustment and growth as the teachers, students, parents, and community learn what this looks like in their world. They will help define it. And remember, there are many, multiple right answers for how how to do PBL right. Are the students (and teachers) learning by doing? Then you’re on the right track. Make it work so that we can have more student-direction, more real-world application, more community involvement, more content integration, more student-ownership. There’s always the next level of goal to attain, so start with manageable chunks.

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.  





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.  





15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #4: don’t fund the shift

18 11 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 #4:
PBL, professional learning, profdev, professional development, Best KeynoteRefuse to find ways to fund it properly.

Problem: PBL doesn’t necessarily cost more than traditional learning, especially if we take textbooks and printed worksheets out of the equation. However, if a school is still funding those traditional approaches for learning, it might look like PBL (and it’s hands-on products) has a hefty price tag.

Solution: Money is a scarce resource in all schools. However, each school has the opportunity to make decisions to fund what they need to grow. Creativity, an open mind, and staying transparent with your school community about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it are the keys to funding new and innovative initiatives. How much are you spending per year on printing supplies? On textbooks? On good quality professional learning to help teachers shift their thinking and practices?

Want to learn more about Project/Problem Based Learning?


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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