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:
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?
- Check out Edutopia’s annotated bibliography for PBL research
- The Buck Institute for Education has also collected a terrific bank of PBL research
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.