The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

For traditional teachers, moving to a project-based learning model can be a challenge. Have any of you faced such challenges learning a new way of teaching? If so, do you have any advice for overcoming those challenges or adjusting to this different model? I truly believe in it and think it is worth the challenges, but I do recognize that there is definitely an adjustment period. Share your thoughts, tips, stories here!

Views: 587

Replies to This Discussion

I've managed many projects in my work at Parsons School of Design. The students were sophomores but I think many of the learnings should be applicable in K -12. I know that they are applicable in my professional practice as a project manager. I'll be glad to weigh in with what I've think I've learned as this discussion develops.

The single most important thing for a successful project is a clearly defined goal. Best if it is arrived at by consensus of all participants. Most important is a clear deadline. A presentation usually works fine as the deadline. as in " 2 weeks from today, we will be presenting to parents, admins, other students.."

The most important element missing for amateurs is a clearly articulated sense of time. One way I've worked through this is to have clear milestones every week. After a couple of weeks, the kids get the point that time matters. Until that's strongly embedded everything else is much harder. Once it becomes the norm of the group, things flow much more smoothly.

The other issues are about unequal effort - inevitable . There are a number of ways to deal with that, but I'll leave that to a post if someone is interested in pursuing that.
The biggest challenge in making the switch from traditional teaching to project-based learning is the acceptance that you, the teacher, is now the facilitator of the students who have become self-directed learners. PBL is a valuable teaching method for incorporating 21st Century skills and authentic instruction. However, all too many teachers believe they can created "just another project" and have it be a true PBL experience. This is certainly not the case. I conduct many training sessions on PBL and stress that it is not PBL unless there is an outside audience. Students must use critical thinking skills and apply them to real world situations in preparation for interaction with that outside audience. This raises the level of student engagement and stresses the need to create truly professional work.

For anyone who is considering integrating PBL into their classroom, it is important to begin "with the end in mind". What do you want your students to accomplish and how will you get them there? What is the essential question for the unit and what type of final product and tools for creating that final product are appropriate? These are all questions that must be answered before jumping into a PBL unit.

Finally, one must realize that memorization of content is not the true meaning behind PBL. The authentic nature of the unit that connects to the real world is key. We must ask ourselves, is it more important to recall specific facts and dates or is it necessary to use that information to apply it in new and meaningful ways?


I love your notion about becoming a facilitator of learning....  it seems to me that you really have to be able to embrace a few things for this to happen:

- clear targets are important for BOTH the teacher and student to know

- workshop model

- a focus on activities and materials as your basis for planning

How do you encourage others to get to the place where they are ready to take the leap?

I think Dayna makes just the right point when she says "it is not PBL unless there is an outside audience. " I've always found that the successful projects have some 'publishing" aspect. Either in print, on the web, in video or a presentation. The focus of making a presentation works for students, just as it works for anyone else.

Consider how procrastination ends when that report is due.
I agree with the importance of an outside audience too. In our network we call this "externalizing the enemy". When my studnts present in front of panels, I try not to attend for more than a few moments. I find that when the panels consist of outsiders the students do a much better job of explaning all the details in the projects. Once an insider appears on panel - they tend to omit those details because they tend to consciously or unconsiously assume that the audience knows as much about the project as the insider on the panel.
Esme Capp from Princes Hill School Australia (Formerly Woorana Park School) has done a lot of work around Negotiated Learning and Project Based learning check out this interview with her by NCSL
it's a great story. I wonder if other people share the feeling that the real question is how to get from here to there.

I was particularly struck with the fact that even though she had the administrative authority it still took "Nine months on, she reckons in the most difficult aspect of transforming a school – getting people on your side." For a teacher in a classroom who is trying to be a project based learning evangelist it's a daunting task
Here is a link to a similar discussion question posed on Edutopia regarding PBL:

I posted a link to this PLN Ning and PBL group!
For me, PBL is the only way to go. I teach Architecture and Engineering Drafting at Wheeler High School. I tire of having to teach the basics in a step by step manner, but it is a necessary evil. Once the students get on to the advanced levels, it's projects all the way. For the last two years, the students have done Katrina Cottage style houses. This year they are doing Jekyll Island State Park Cabins. You can see the projects here

I agree with several of the other comments. A clearly defined goal and timeline is crucial. You need resources that you can direct the students to when they have questions. You've got to be prepared for messiness, noise and the possibility of failure.
I learned the hard way, don't give just one grade at the end of the project. You've got to grade the milestones.
All-in-all, it's great fun. The students come up with some interesting questions and solutions. One of my groups want's to put a spiral staircase in their cabin. They had to find a manufacturer and incorporate the manf.'s specifications into thier cabin. Another group was dead set to include a sunken den in their cabin. Their project mentor and I both warned them against this but they just had to have it. Now that its time to build the model, they have come to see the light of day. No more sunken floor.
I encourage everyone to try PBL. As with most things, start small. Incorporate it into what you are doing already. It may take a couple of years to get comfortable enough with PBL in order to do 6-8 week projects like I do now.
I totally agree. Grading the milestones are crucial. I learned a quick way to do grade projects at milestones from another PBL teacher and documented it here:
Is your rubric chart for the entire semester or just for 1 project?
The rubric chart is for 1 project. My projects tend to run for 3 to 6 weeks. Sometimes the rubric poster grows during the project if we add twists to the project.



Thomas Whitby created this Ning Network.

Latest Activity

Christine Hinkley posted an event

OLC Innovate 2020 at Sheraton Grand Chicago

March 31, 2020 to April 3, 2020
Together we will build new foundations for stronger, better higher education environments. And because innovation scales best when ideas are shared, our work sessions will explore digital technologies and adapted teaching behaviors aimed at informing policy, inspiring leadership, and evolving practice at all levels impacting institutions, universities and colleges.CALL FOR PROPOSALS OPEN UNTIL SEPTEMBER 11, 2019. LEARN MORE:…See More
Aug 19
George Danke posted a discussion

Integration with The Latest Technology in Education Field

It is with certainty that we can say that the future of education is looking very bright. Today the kids are taught so many new innovations that we adults couldn't have imagined learning at school. They are also given exposure to more practical lessons. Integration with the latest technology and the accessibility to global platforms have made the industry take a whole new perspective towards imparting knowledge to students. Though the current generation is much advanced and keep up with the…See More
Jul 25
George Danke replied to Nanacy Lin's discussion Future Of Education
"Hi! I think that exactly AI will have a great impact on feature of Education. Technologies are rapidly developing and soon there will be tools with the help of which the learning process will be faster and more efficient."
Jul 24
George Danke replied to Shanshan Ma's discussion Personalized learning network and social media
"Hi! I agree that this platform it is a nice place for educators.  However, you can find people and education groups in such social medias as Facebook and Twitter which also can help you to find some useful information.  So, I can not…"
Jul 24
Profile IconSharon Boling, Jerry Hansen, Sara Maynerich and 40 more joined The Educator's PLN
Jul 23
Ruth Herman Wells posted an event

Seattle WA Teacher Behavior Management Professional Development Workshop at Marriot Courtyard South Center

April 23, 2020 at 9am to April 24, 2020 at 4pm
Got Problem Kids? Here's your Problem-Student Problem-Solver Workshop. You name the problems and this workshop delivers hundreds of immediate problem-stopping answers. You will leave with innovative, more effective strategies for school failure, truancy, dropping out, work refusal, violence, delinquency, bad attitudes, depression, and more. Online workshop, college credit and free clock hours also available. For more info go to our website,…See More
Jul 18
Deidra Campbell liked Thomas Whitby's blog post Parent Communication Isn’t What It Once Was.
Jul 6
Daisy Hastings posted a blog post

How and Why To Get Into National Honor Society

The National Honor Society (NHS) is an organization for the high-school students. It is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating the young ones for their excellent performance at educational establishments. Hence, those who satisfy the membership requirements laid down by the school’s chapter can apply for the NHS membership.How to get into National Honor Society?The first task is to figure out if your school consists of an NHS chapter. And, if it does…See More
Jun 24

© 2019   Created by Thomas Whitby.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service