When you're engaged in project-based
learning, a good project often feels like a journey. It has a
timeline with clear starting and ending points. There's a sense of anticipation
as students and teachers embark on an inquiry experience together.
Advance planning is a good idea, yet we know there may be surprises
and side trips ahead that will take us places we haven't imagined. By the end,
we will have created enduring memories about our shared PBL
At the ISTE Virtual Conference, colleague Jane Krauss and
I discussed signposts to help you make the most of the learning opportunities
PBL offers. Just as highway signs help you get where you want to go, project
signposts keep learning on course so students will arrive at a deeper
understanding of the material. Here are some signposts to help guide your PBL
This is a signpost you and your students should encounter multiple
times during a project. It's not enough to provide feedback at the end, when
students share their final products. Instead, plan for feedback opportunities
across the arc of the project.
What does feedback look like in PBL? Tools for feedback can vary
widely, from low-tech (teacher observations, team logs or exit tickets at the
end of class) to technology-enabled (blog comments or video conferences with
content experts). Feedback can come from fellow students and teachers, from
"outsiders" such as community members, or from
Whatever form feedback takes, makes sure it's timely, specific and
helpful. Build time into your project calendar so students can use the feedback
to improve their products.
as experts do.
Create opportunities for students to step into the role of expert
and apply specific problem-solving strategies. During a project that involves
interpreting the past, for example, students will need to look through the lens
of a historian. For a project that involves unfolding events, they may need to
think like journalists. Other projects may benefit from knowing how to use the
scientific method or being able to analyze data through computational thinking
At the planning stage, consider the expert roles that may be
required. Then think about how you're going to help students understand those
roles and the specific thinking strategies that go with them. If you're not sure
how an ethicist, botanist, technologist or folk historian thinks about the
world, think about how you might enlist expert advice from outside the
Which signposts help you keep learning on track in PBL? Share your
comments or questions here, and join us for the virtual conversation in
Suzie Boss is an education technology writer and
author of the ISTE book Reinventing Project-Based
Learning. Connect with her on Twitter via @suzieboss.