You’ve arrived. You’ve done your research. You’ve read the blog posts. You’ve heard the tales of deep learning and student engagement, and you know that project-based learning (PBL) touches many of the ISTE Standards for Students.
The time has come. You’re finally ready to try a project with your class. If you're new to PBL, you may be a little intimidated by tackling an entirely new approach to learning that puts so much control into the hands of students. Rest assured that not only is it doable, it's totally worth it.
With the help of Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss, co-authors of Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, Second Edition, we’ve created an interactive infographic mapping out a step-by-step guide for getting started with PBL. Move through the slides and click on the icons to get information to help with every stop along the way.
Boss also offers these five tips for tackling your first PBL project with a class.
1. Ask yourself this essential question: Why would a project be the best use of your students’ time (and yours) in the coming days or weeks?
This question is designed to get you thinking about one of the cornerstones of planning effective projects. Projects must be about significant content that can't be learned from a quick lecture, reading assignment or lab activity. PBL asks students to learn deeply, then apply their understanding to create something new.
So from the get-go, you need to know that PBL involves big ideas and in-depth inquiry. In other words, go big or go home.
2. Learn something new.
Many PBL teachers make their learning journeys public on social media or in other forums. Their stories and insights help all of us get better at PBL. Turn to these resources to follow some amazing journeys: Buck Institute of Technology, Edutopia and Twitter ed chats including #pblchat, #ElemMathChat, #COLchat, #tlap, #weirdEd and #eduality.
3. Determine how you will manage the project.
This, too, is driven by some key questions: How will you help students work effectively in teams, take part in peer critique and take on more independence as learners? How will you manage the moving pieces and sometimes messy learning? Answer these to be sure you have things under control.
4. Address your assessment plan.
For this, ask yourself: What should students know or be able to do by the end of the project? How will they demonstrate their understanding? These are the pivotal inquiries about summative assessment that you must raise as you design your project.
Perhaps even more important is the focus on formative assessment. In PBL, teachers are actively observing, monitoring and adjusting instruction based on what they notice. Students use that formative feedback as they work through multiple drafts or iterations of work products.
5. Cut yourself some slack.
As you enter the world of PBL, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that all teachers need time and practice to get used to new ways of working with students. Give yourself the opportunity to consider what worked well in a project and what you need to change next time.