This year, I’m leading a group of teachers in our school who want to learn about project-based learning. I thought my goal was simple – to familarize teachers with the fundomentals of PBL and to help them develop and implement first projects. During our first meeting, however, I discovered my biggest challenge. No teacher would give it a try unless I demonstrated clear connections bewtween PBL and best teaching practices. I had to demolish the myth about PBL being something we don’t have time for in a classroom, a belief that is well fed on the pressure to cover all standards on time. I wanted to prove that PBL would cover and uncover standards in a timely manner and allow studetns to experience their depth in an engaging and relevant way.
Since most of our staff read the book, I decided to build my case on “Focus” by Mike Schmoker. I needed to connect the three essentials described by the author with the three pillars of PBL. According to Schmoker, the three elements of effective teaching are:
- What We Teach – a coherent curriculum with “power standards”
- How We Teach – all students must learn each segment of each lesson before moving on to the next one; scaffolding and differentiation
- Authentic Literacy – purposeful, usually argumentative, reading, writing, and talking (Schmoker, 2011)
Critical thinking, collaboration, and communication in PBL are perfectly parallel with Schmoker’s teaching essentials. PBL may be a different way of teaching, but it is effective in every way. It creates classrooms full of deep thinkers and independent learners. Finding such connections helped me win teachers over. They took a risk and stepped forward with a very much doable approach – PBL.
This is the prezi presentation I used with my group to discuss connections between the essentials described by Schmoker and PBL. I thank all my colleagues for the wonderful discussion we had!