Last April I came across a great post by Rhonda Hill titled, How Districts Help Teachers See Stepping Stones to Project Based Learning. The title caught my eye, as I am in the process of helping teachers shift their practices to be more student centered and authentic through the use of PBL units.
Reading through Rhonda’s advice, I came across a phrase that totally shifted my thinking and my approach to coaching teachers:
PBL is more of a dimmer than an on/off switch
In theory PBL makes perfect sense. Have a read through Edutopia’s elevator speech to see what I mean:
PBL is the act of learning through identifying a real-world problem and developing its solution. Kids show what they learn as they journey through the unit, not just at the end.
The difficulty comes when trying to think through a full blown PBL unit that takes hours of pre-planning and a huge paradigm shift. Hence the reluctance to jump in head first.
At start the year, I presented an intro to PBL at orientation that was built around the idea of ‘turning up the dimmer.’ Instead of our original idea – jumping into the planning of a PBL unit – my team and I decided that we would first show that many of the eight essential elements can already be scene in practice throughout the school.
At the end of the workshop, we had great feedback! Teachers were asked to complete the phrase “I used to think ___ and now I think___” about PBL, as our formative assessment and their exit ticket. Here are a few responses: