Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Experts and NewBIEs Blog Move to bie.org

We have launched a new website at bie.org and we will no longer be posting new blog posts to our Experts and NewBIEs blog on Blogger. We value our followers and hope that you will continue to read the posts on our new blog. If you would like to receive monthly email updates about new blog posts, please become a member of our new, redesigned website by selecting “Sign Up” at the top of the web page at bie.org. We will also continue to maintain our older blogs on Blogger, and plan to post links to new articles below:

The Buffet Effect: 4 Strategies To Encourage Smart Student Choice in PBL

PBL Turns a Book into Reality

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Katrina Martinez

Beyond Test Scores: Building Project Management Skills with PBL

30 (More) Leaders on the Successes and Challenges of Project-Based Learning

Sumo Bots Projects Reflect Gold Standard PBL

“Paper Plate” Coaching for PBL Culture

Top 7 PBL News Stories - Nov. 14 - 18, 2016

The Monumental Sandcastle Design Project

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Andre Daughty

3 Hallmarks of Digital Project Based Learning

A Look Back at PBL World 2016

Top 6 PBL News Stories - Nov. 7 - 11, 2016

PBL Nurtures Powerful, Compassionate, Wise, Creative Citizens

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Kali Kurdy

How Are You Helping Your Students Become Global Citizens?

BIE Book Excerpt: Building a Culture of Inquiry and Independence in PBL

Top 5 PBL News Stories - Oct. 31 - Nov. 4, 2016

Skills Integrated PBL Delivers Liberating Education

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Erin Gannon

Authentic Intellectual Work and Project Based Learning: Why Gold Standard PBL Is So Critical

Project Management Solutions for the 21st-Century Student

Top 7 PBL News Stories - Oct. 24-28, 2016

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Aaron Eisberg

Professional Learning Cycle in Harmony’s Project-Based Schools

Science Fair Model + Literature = Gold Standard PBL

Top 5 PBL News Stories

A Project Slice: All the Toppings, and You Want More

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Abby Schneiderjohn

How I Used PBL to Promote Tolerance for Religions

What Can You Do With an Idea? An Award-Winning PBL Program

Top 8 PBL News Stories - Oct. 10-14, 2016

35 Leaders on the Successes and Challenges of Project Based Learning

BIE National Faculty Is a Special Group

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Brad Sever

Thinking Like a Nanoscientist

Top 7 PBL News Stories

PBL: We’re Not Flying by the Seat of Our Pants Anymore!

How We Used Google Apps to Enrich a Project

Meet the BIE NF: Dayna Laur

BIE Book Excerpt: The Roots of Gold Standard PBL in Kilpatrick and Dewey

Top 5 PBL News Stories - Sept. 26-30, 2016

Meet BIE’s New Chief Program Officer: Brandon Wiley

PBL: Practice By Living

A Way to Ensure High-Quality Project Based Learning for All

PBL Speaks Many Languages

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Kristy Lathrop

PBL Teachers Are Like Magicians

Project Based Learning is Here to Stay: Let’s Make Sure It’s High Quality (Part 2)

Project Based Learning is Here to Stay: Let’s Make Sure It’s High Quality (Part 1)

Top 6 PBL News Stories - Sept. 12-16, 2016

New Booklet for Parents & School Communities to Build Understanding & Support for PBL

What Students Really Remember Learning in School

The Conundrum of Student Choice in Project Based Learning

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Kelly Reseigh

Top 7 PBL News Stories

This School Year, Use These 3 Data Points to Ensure Successful PBL

Leading the Way for PBL in Novato USD

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Eric White

Top 6 PBL News Stories

PBL: Meaningful Work, Meaningful Learning

Cultivating Coastal Conservationists: Pathways to Coast and Ocean Literacy with Gold Standard PBL

Meet the National Faculty: Jim Bentley

Incorporating Literacy in Your Project: An Excerpt from PBL in the Elementary Grades

Top 9 PBL News Stories

Meet the National Faculty: Kris Hanks

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Finding Project Ideas

Balancing Approaches for PBL Success

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Al Summers

Top 9 PBL News Stories

Meet the BIE NF: Jennifer D. Klein

Empathy: The Surprising Secret Sauce For Authentic STEM Project Design

My Experience with the “We Can” Project

PBL, STEAM, & CTE: Validation through Triangulation

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Telannia Norfar

Meet the BIE National Faculty: James Fester

PBL In Higher Ed – Not

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Jennifer R. Pieratt, PhD

Top 8 PBL News Stories

MyParty Election project 2016

Two Projects to Teach a Global Mindset

PBL is Making Headway in Higher Education

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Jorge Valenzuela

Top 8 PBL News Stories

Technology and Engineering Education is Ripe for PBL

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Lacrecia Terrance

4 Lessons Learnt from Our First Cross-Curricular Project

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Mike Kaechele

Top 8 PBL News Stories

PBL in the Mirror: Planning for Student Reflection

Discover, Create, Share: 3 Cycles of Learning for Rigorous PBL

Meet the National Faculty: Andrew Miller

Top 5 PBL News Stories

How can we flip assessment to build a PBL culture?

The Bittersweet Journey of Change in Education

Two Stories of “Getting” PBL

Meet the BIE National Faculty: Mark Picketts

Top 5 PBL News Stories

Living in Beta: PBL and Technology

Saying Goodbye to Texarkana

BIE Book Excerpt: Critical Thinking in PBL

Top 8 PBL News Stories

Reflection on SEL Goals + Supportive PBL Culture = Personal Growth

Book Review: Helping Children Succeed by Paul Tough & Its Implications for PBL

Literature, Deep Inquiry, Makerspace: Memorial Projects for the Holocaust & Other Cataclysmic Events

BIE Book Excerpt: What Project Based Learning is Not

Top 8 PBL News Stories

Poverty Project Builds Social Awareness

What Does it Mean to be a Thought Partner with a PBL District?

The Importance of Interdisciplinary Fluidity: Water Day Project

Making the Most of PBL Professional Development

Top 5 PBL News Stories

Make Epic Happen! (Start with a Small Seed)

PBL World Day Three: Ashanti Branch Keynote

PBL World Day Two: Keynote by Brianna and Leona Das

PBL World 2016 Day One Highlights

Top 6 PBL News Stories

How We Designed an Interdisciplinary Project

Research Brief: PBL Helps Students Become Better Decision Makers

Speaking Matters! Improving Project Presentations

How to join us at PBL World even if you’re not there

Top 7 PBL News Stories

Riled-Up Students Ask: Why should we celebrate Black History Month?

What Students Say about PBL Outcomes

Using Google Classroom to Support PBL

Hangout Recap: Elementary School Project Spotlight

Top 6 PBL News Stories

Healing the Root of STEM

PBL School Leaders: Are You on the Right Track?

Authentic Community Connection for a Special Ed Project

Does the Maker Faire Represent PBL? Yes and no.

Top 7 PBL News Stories

5 Strategies for Fostering Culture in a PBL Classroom

PBL Transforms Lives: Sadiq’s Story in Metro Nashville

What’s Next? Personalized, Project Based Learning

Hangout Recap: Middle and High School Projects from 2015-2016

Top 5 PBL News Stories

NASA Scientist + Mars Rovers + LEGO = Engaged 4th Graders

Tips for Getting Started With Project Based Learning

3 Lessons From Teaching Our First PBL Unit

A PBL Project is Like the Hero’s Journey

Top 5 PBL News Stories

Google Apps for Education Enhances Project Based Learning

Ensuring that PBL is not One. More. Thing. in a School and District

What can we learn from John Hattie about Project Based Teaching? (Part 4)

Film Review & Reflection: Most Likely to Succeed

Top 6 PBL News Stories

3D Printed Prosthetic Projects: Front Line of a Disruptive Revolution

A Spring Check-Up: Your Site-Based PBL Action Plan

What’s so exciting about going back to school? This project is!

Gold Standard PBL: Reflection

Top 6 PBL News Stories

Using a Project Wall to Support Gold Standard Project Based Teaching

How Districts Help Teachers See Stepping Stones to Project Based Teaching

What can we learn from John Hattie about Project Based Teaching? (Part 3a)

Gold Standard PBL: Engage & Coach

Top 7 PBL News Stories

Inclusive Special Education via PBL

Harvesting a Crop of 21st Century Students

Project Based Learning as a Tool for School Improvement Planning

A Tale of Two Conferences (Part 2)

Top 5 PBL News Stories

Going Public: The Power of Local, Community Partners

Metro Nashville’s Project Expo: Bigger & Better Than Ever

A Tale of Two Conferences (Part One) cont.

A Tale of Two Conferences (Part One)

Top 6 PBL News Stories

10 Teacher Moves to Build Student Support in a PBL Classroom

Moving the Hallway Conversation Out of the Hall

What can we learn from John Hattie about Project Based Teaching? (Part 2)

Gold Standard PBL: Student Voice & Choice

Top 7 PBL News Stories

Creating Authentic Kindergarten PBL

Learning with PBL Leaders

Planning for Public Products—a Piece of Cake!

The Perils of PBL’s Popularity

Top 6 PBL News Stories (Week of March 14-18, 2016)

3 Tips for Planning Authentic PBL Projects

Making the shift to PBL in your district? Bring friends!

Lessons Learned from the Shadow a Student Challenge

Gold Standard PBL: Managing Activities

Top 6 PBL News Stories (Week of March 7-11, 2016)

4 Ways to Promote Growth Mindset in PBL

Confidence: Another Success Skill for Students with Disabilities

What can we learn from John Hattie about Project Based Teaching? (Part 1)

PBL News Roundup, Feb. 29 - Mar. 4, 2016

Lip Dubs and PBL Culture. Say what?!

4 Lessons Learned from Supporting School Districts in PBL Implementation

Gold Standard PBL: Critique and Revision

BIE Blog Becoming Bigger, Better, Broader, Bolder

PBL News Roundup, Feb. 22-26, 2016

New Resources for High-Quality PBL

Gold Standard PBL: Assessing Student Learning

Gold Standard PBL: Authenticity

Gold Standard PBL: Scaffold Student Learning

Local Food Movement Meets PBL in Project Localize

Gold Standard PBL: Align to Standards

9 Resolutions & 9 Resources for Your Project-Based Learning Classroom This Year

Gold Standard PBL: Public Product

Back to the Future at the White House Summit on Redesigning High Schools

Gold Standard PBL: Challenging Problem or Question

Project Based Learning with Students with Disabilities

Gold Standard PBL: Design & Plan

Sustained Inquiry in PBL

Building a PBL Culture in the Classroom

Bob Lenz Takes Helm at BIE

Retiring Executive Director John Mergendoller predicts global growth for ‘PBL movement’

PBL World Day 5: Fast-Changing World Demands Innovation, Iteration in Education

PBL World Day 4: Ramsey Musallam Turns PBL into Hero’s Journey (for Learners)

PBL World Day 3: Want innovation? Think REnovation for quality PBL

PBL World Day 2: How Stephen Ritz Grows Citizens with PBL, STEAM, and Boundless Optimism

PBL World Day 1: Stories of Engaged Learning Set the Tone for PBL World

Why We Changed Our Model of the “8 Essential Elements of PBL”

Gold Standard PBL: Project Based Teaching Practices

Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements

4 Truths About Effective PBL Leadership

Using Project Based Learning in Physical Education

Developing Globally Competent Students Through PBL

2014’s Most Popular Blogs & Hangouts

Gold Standard PBL Across the American Schools in South America

Authenticity to Self: Engaging Students’ Identities in Project Based Learning

Viewpoint on PBL: What Students Say

Viewpoint on PBL: What a Parent Says

Collaboration and High-Quality Student Work

Gold Standard PBL: A Progress Report & Request for Critique

For Gold Standard PBL, What Matters Most for Teachers?

Become a More Connected PBL Educator

Project Based Learning is the Conduit for Progressive Change

The Importance of Project Based Teaching

The Power of the 4Cs: The Foundation for Creating a Gold Standard for Project Based Learning (PBL)

Gold Standard PBL: What is it and Why do we need it?

Keep Austin Weird - and Filled with PBL

Resource List: In-Depth Inquiry in PBL

Resource List: Differentiation in PBL

Resource List: Managing a Project

Resource List: Assessment in PBL

Resource List: Creativity in PBL

Resource List: Communication in PBL

Resource List: Collaboration in PBL

Resource List: Critical Thinking in PBL

PBL World Day 5: John Mergendoller Describes Gold Standard PBL

PBL World Day 4: Pearl Arredondo Starts a PBL School to Foster ‘Our Next Movers and Shakers’

PBL World Day 3: Emily Pilloton Redesigns Education with ‘Love and Audacity’

PBL World Day 2: Keeping It Real World with Sam Seidel

PBL World Day 1: Opportunities Everywhere

Can You Just Tell Me What to Do?

From Open House to Exhibition Night

Grit Happens in PBL 

Four Reasons to Exhibit Student Work

The Best Unit I've Ever Taught 

Hangout Recap: Elementary Project Spotlight

Hangout Recap: Public Exhibitions of Student Work

Hangout Recap: Assessing 21st Century Competencies in PBL

Hangout Recap: Assessment in Project Based Learning

Hangout Recap: Managing Projects in Middle and High School

Project Management - The Devil is in the Differentiation!

Hangout Recap: Managing Projects in Elementary Schools

Hangout Recap: Using Technology to Help Manage a Project

29.5 Tips for Successfully Managing a Project

Hangout Recap: Managing Your Project

Make Room for Innovation and Creativity in PBL

How Can We Teach and Assess Creativity and Innovation in PBL?

Leading with the 4 C’s to Build the 5th C: Culture

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Does It Mean to “Align” PBL with Common Core?

by Sara Hallermann, BIE Curriculum Development Manager, and John Larmer, Editor in Chief

(Note to math folks: In this post we discuss the Common Core ELA standards and how a high school social studies project aligns with them, but the 4 key considerations apply to math as well. Stay tuned for another post on CCSS Math and PBL.)

You see the phrase “CCSS Aligned” everywhere these days, from textbook publishers to district offices to teachers’ lesson plans. But when someone says their PBL unit is aligned to the Common Core, it has to mean more than a laundry list of standards the project “addresses.” It’s true that PBL serves as an excellent vehicle for helping students meet the standards for ELA and for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. But projects must be carefully designed and managed to help students grow as readers, writers, listeners, and speakers.

To ensure full alignment to Common Core, we see five key considerations for project designers:

1. Products
The major products and performances students complete in the project should engage them in a rigorous combination of reading, writing, listening, and speaking about the topic of investigation, as they develop their answer to the Driving Question. Teachers should also build the critical thinking skills contained in the Common Core standards.

Example: At City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco, The California Propositions Project challenged student teams to create 30-second video commercials to “change a voter’s mind” about a California proposition in an upcoming election. The students presented their commercials to a public audience and also wrote individual argumentative essays. To complete these products, the teacher required students to meet several Common Core standards, including:

·      Grade 11-12 Writing 1: “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.”
·      Grade 11-12 Writing 8: “Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas…”
·      Grade 11-12 Reading Informational Text 6: “Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.”
·      Grade 11-12 Speaking and Listening 1: “Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions… building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.”
·      Grade 11-12 Speaking and Listening 2: “Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.”

2. Rubrics
Rubrics for a project’s major products should be based on Common Core standards, both in terms of the criteria and the wording. It’s Ok to add more criteria based on the particular goals and products in a project, but be sure the rubric is written to help you assess specific standards. Use the language from the standard in your rubric’s “Meets Standard” column, and repeat key terms and phrases in the column describing what it means to approach the “Meets Standard” level.

Example: In the California Propositions Project, the teacher used a rubric for argumentative writing to guide and assess students as they wrote their individual essays.  One row in the rubric focused on the criterion, “Strength of Argument” and the “Meets Standard” column included this line from CC Writing Standard 1b:
“The student develops claims and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each.”
To guide students in making effective oral presentations when they introduced their commercials to a public audience, the Presentation Rubric used language directly from CC Speaking and Listening Standard 6:
“The student adapts speech for the context and task, demonstrating command of formal English when appropriate.”

3. Scaffolding
The project should be structured to provide space for inquiry, yet include careful scaffolding of the identified Common Core standards.
Example: The California Propositions Project was carefully scaffolded to enable students to build understanding and skills through a combination of workshops and protocol-based lessons provided by the teacher, text resources, fieldwork, and interactions with experts. For example, early on in the project, the teacher facilitated the Structured Controversy Protocol to help students gain deep understanding of all positions related to controversial proposition issues (Speaking and Listening 1). Later in the project, the teacher had students use a “Follow the Argument Road” graphic organizer to help them determine whether the author’s evidence sufficiently supports claims in texts related to proposition issues (Reading: Informational Text 8). During Writer’s Workshop, students used an Argument Model Graphic Organizer to craft arguments to support their claims about their propositions using valid reasoning and relevant evidence (Writing 1).

4. Text Complexity
One of the key requirements of the Common Core is that all students read texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. By the time they graduate, students must be able to, as Anchor Standard 10 states, “Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.”

To meet this goal, projects should be designed to include a diverse list of reading materials at the right level of complexity to explore the topic of investigation and answer the Driving Question. Students should receive explicit instruction on how to read closely and unpack complex texts with increasing independence, handle frustration, and demonstrate perseverance. Throughout the inquiry process in a project, learning experiences should be designed to drive students back to the text and encourage them to formulate evidence-based reasoning.

Example: In the California Propositions Project, students developed understanding about their propositions through close reading of a diverse set of complex texts, including the voter information guide from the state government and articles written by various stakeholders. Students synthesized information gained through their reading, conducted market research by interviewing voters, analyzed campaign videos, and interviewed experts to create reasoned, evidence-based arguments for or against their proposition. 

5. Formative Assessment
During a multi-week project in which students need to understand a topic in depth and create high-quality products, working independently from the teacher some of the time, teachers need to make sure students are “getting it” as well as getting it done. Project plans should include formative assessment of the identified Common Core standards frequently and at key checkpoints during the project.

Example: In the California Propositions Project, the teacher facilitated peer critique processes and provided his own written feedback to assess progress toward the standards at key checkpoints during the project, such as:
      Summary of the proposition pro and con arguments (Writing 8 & 9)
      Draft of argumentative essay (Writing 1 & 5)
      Video script and storyboard (Speaking and Listening 4 & 5)
      Draft 30-second commercial rough cut feedback session (Speaking and Listening 4 & 5)

By paying attention to these five areas, project designers can be sure they are on the right track toward reaching Common Core goals.

John Larmer and Sara Hallermann discuss how projects should be designed to align with Common Core, from products to rubrics to reading materials to formative assessment. Hangout with BIE: Common Core and Project Based Learning - Part II can be viewed live on December 4, 2013, at 5:00 pm pst or 8:00 pm est, or archived thereafter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Project Based Learning vs. Problem Based Learning vs. XBL

By John Larmer, BIE Editor in Chief

At the Buck Institute for Education, we’ve been keeping a list of the many types of “_____ - based learning” we have run across over the years.

  • Case-based learning
  • Challenge-based learning 
  • Community-based learning 
  • Design-based learning 
  • Game-based learning 
  • Inquiry-based learning 
  • Land-based learning 
  • Place-based learning 
  • Problem-based learning 
  • Service-based learning 
  • Studio-based learning 
  • Team-based learning 
  • Work-based learning 
and our new fave…
  • Zombie-based learning (look it up!) 

Let’s try to sort this out. 

The term “project learning” derives from the work of John Dewey and dates back to William Kilpatrick, who first used the term in 1918. At BIE, we see Project Based Learning as a broad category, which as long as there is an extended “project” at the heart of it, could take several forms or be a combination of:
  • Designing and/or creating a tangible product, performance or event
  • Solving a real-world problem (may be simulated or fully authentic)
  • Investigating a topic or issue to develop an answer to an open-ended question

So according to our “big tent” model of PBL, all of the newer “X-BLs” – problem-, challenge-, and design-based – are basically modern versions of the same concept. They feature, to varying degrees, all of BIE’s 8 Essential Elements of PBL, although each has its own distinct flavor. (And btw, each of these three, and Project Based Learning, fall under the general category of inquiry-based learning – which also includes research papers, scientific investigations, Socratic Seminars or other text-based discussions, etc.).

Other X-BLs are so named because they use a specific context for learning, such as a particular place or type of activity. They may contain “projects” within them, or have some of the 8 Essential Elements, but not necessarily. For example, within a community- or service-based learning experience, students may plan and conduct a project that improves their local community or helps the people in it, but they may also do other activities that are not part of a project. Conversely, students may learn content and skills via a game-based or work-based program that does not involve anything like what we would call a PBL-style project.

Project Based Learning vs. Problem Based Learning

Because they have the same acronym, we get a lot of questions about the similarities and differences between the two PBLs. We even had questions ourselves; some years ago we created units for high school economics and government that we called “problem based.” But we later changed the name to “Project Based Economics” and “Project Based Government” to eliminate confusion about which PBL it was.

We decided to call Problem Based Learning a subset of Project Based Learning; that is, one of the ways a teacher could frame a project is “to solve a problem.” But Problem-BL does have its own history and set of typically-followed procedures, which are more formally observed than in other types of projects. The use of case studies and simulations as “problems” dates back to medical schools in the 1960s, and Problem-BL is still more often seen in the post-secondary world than in K-12, where Project-BL is more common.

Problem Based Learning typically follows prescribed steps:
  1. presentation of an “ill-structured” (open-ended, “messy”) problem 
  2. problem definition or formulation (writing a “problem statement”) 
  3. generation of a “knowledge inventory” (creating a list of “what we know about the problem” and “what we need to know”) 
  4. generation of possible solutions 
  5. formulation of learning issues for self-directed and coached learning 
  6. sharing of findings and solutions 
If you’re a Project-BL teacher this probably looks pretty familiar, even though the process goes by different names. Other than the framing and the more formalized steps in Problem-BL, there’s really not much conceptual difference between the two PBLs – it’s more a question of style and scope:


A note on math and the two PBLs: Teachers at some schools in the K-12 world that use Project-BL as a primary instructional method, such as the New Technology Network and Envision Schools, have begun saying they use Problem-BL for math. Especially at the secondary level, teaching math primarily through multi-disciplinary projects has proved challenging. (Not that occasional multi-disciplinary projects including math are a bad idea!) By using Problem-BL, these teachers feel they can design single-subject math projects – aka “problems” – that effectively teach more math content by being more limited in scope than many typical Project-BL units are. Tackling a “problem” may, for example, not involve as much independent student inquiry, nor the creation of a complex product for presentation to a public audience.

So how does this Tale of Two PBLs end?

One could argue that completing any type of project involves solving a problem. If students are investigating an issue, like, say, immigration policy, the problem is deciding where they stand on it and how to communicate their views to a particular audience in a video. Or if students are building a new play structure for a playground, the problem is how to build it properly, given the wants and needs of users and various constraints. Or even if they're writing stories for a book to be published about the Driving Question, “How do we grow up?” the problem is how to express a unique, rich answer to the Question.

The semantics aren’t worth worrying about, for very long anyway. The two PBLs are really two sides of the same coin. What type of PBL you decide to call your, er… extended learning experience just depends on how you frame it. The bottom line is the same: both PBLs can powerfully engage and effectively teach your students!

This is part one of a two-part post. Next: PBL vs. Projects (dessert, side dish, Senior, capstone, applied learning/demonstration of learning, etc.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Role of PBL in Making the Shift to Common Core

by Sara Hallermann, BIE Curriculum Development Manager, & John Larmer, BIE Editor in Chief

“CCSS is the what and carefully designed projects are the how.” 

The Common Core has embedded within it some Big Ideas that shift the role of teachers to curriculum designers and managers of an inquiry process. How can PBL help with this shift?

Big Idea: I am a designer. 

Common Core calls upon teachers to shift away from writing daily lesson plans towards carefully mapping out long-range units. Daily lesson planning is important, but it must occur within the context of a larger plan. 

PBL Connection: To meet the demands of the Common Core, teachers need a framework for designing units. In PBL, the project IS the unit. It requires careful planning from start to finish, as BIE emphasizes in its project planning framework.

Big Idea: I facilitate inquiry. 

Research and sustained inquiry are emphasized throughout the standards, but most prominently in the writing strand because written analysis and presentation of findings are critical in both college and careers. To meet the demands of the Common Core, students need to be able to build knowledge and expertise through careful reading of increasingly complex texts about the same topic of investigation.

PBL Connection: To meet BIE’s 8 Essential Elements, inquiry must be academically rigorous and position students to pose questions, gather and interpret data, ask further questions, and develop and evaluate solutions or build evidence for answers. Well-designed projects teach students how to be deep, analytical thinkers and require perseverance through the inquiry process.

Big Idea: I set students up to dig deep, search for meaning, and craft reasoned arguments.

Common Core requires teachers to shift from promoting a “searching for the right answer mentality” to explicitly teaching students how to dive into texts and search for meaning. Students need ongoing access to inquiry experiences that build their understanding of the world through text and explicitly teach students how to support arguments with evidence.

PBL Connection: Projects can be framed around compelling problems, issues, or challenges that require critical thinking and prompt students to craft reasoned arguments in response to the driving question. Through balanced assessment in PBL, teachers can assess the critical thinking process as well as products and enable students to self-assess their critical thinking skills.

Big idea: I create conditions in which students can learn how to persevere. 

Perseverance is an underlying theme in the Common Core Standards. To meet the standards, students need to put forth sustained effort through in-depth investigation of issues, building understanding of varying perspectives, reading complex tests, listening carefully, and sharing their reasoning.

PBL Connection: In PBL, students are asked to demonstrate perseverance by analyzing and solving problems and thinking critically in an in-depth and sustained way. Revision and reflection, one of BIE’s 8 Essential Elements, requires PBL teachers to provide students with regular, structured opportunities to give and receive feedback about the quality of their work-in-progress, demonstrate perseverance, and polish their products until they successfully meet the established criteria for success.

Big Idea: I integrate content and create relevance. 

Common Core requires teachers to move away from teaching skills in isolation towards the integration of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language into long-term unit plans. Students should be able to see the relationship between standards and transfer concepts and skills in the classroom to the world outside the classroom walls. Rather than learning in a decontextualized way, Common Core demands that students have ongoing experiences to learn about the world through reading and understand the relevance of what is taught.

PBL Connection: In PBL, key culminating products are complex in nature and enable students to demonstrate understanding of a blend of concepts and skills. Well-crafted Driving Questions are both understandable and inspiring to students and provide a meaningful, authentic context for learning. Projects motivate students to learn because they genuinely find the project’s topic, Driving Question, and tasks to be relevant and meaningful. Entry events powerfully engage students both emotionally and intellectually and make them feel invested in the project. This provokes students to dive into inquiry and gives them a reason to read, write, listen, and speak about the topic of investigation.

Big Idea: I facilitate meaningful conversations. 

Common Core requires a shift from teachers doing much of the talking to creating conditions in which students can engage in meaningful conversations in which they learn how to use evidence for claims, listen carefully, draw meaning, and evaluate others’ reasoning.

PBL Connection: Collaboration is a requirement in PBL. Students work in collaborative teams that employ the skills of all group members and often interface with people beyond the classroom.

Stay tuned for part two of the PBL and Common Core blog series. Part two will address key considerations related to products, rubrics, scaffolding, text complexity, and formative assessment to fully align PBL units to Common Core.

We will discuss the shifts in teaching required by the Common Core Standards and how they connect to PBL. For example, CCSS asks teachers to move from daily lesson planning to long-range unit planning - much like in PBL, where the project IS the unit - and to move from teacher talk to students engaging in conversations based on evidence for claims - as student teams do when developing their answer to a project's Driving Question. Hangout with BIE: Common Core and Project Based Learning can be viewed live on November 6, 2013, at 5:00 pm pst or 8:00 pm est, or archived there after.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Work is the Story: Telling the Story Behind A Great Project

by Robert Todd Felton

I recently attended the Fall open house of my son’s public middle school. Although the year was still relatively fresh, the students had done very impressive work. Beautiful artwork adorned the front lobby and samples of compelling student writing on everything from poetry to lab reports were on display. It was an impressive collection...and a little frustrating.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of displaying and celebrating high quality student work. I think we don’t do enough to recognize that our students are capable of the type of care and craftsmanship we expect from adults. Student work, no matter the discipline, can be every bit as polished and impactful as that we see in galleries, businesses, and the media.

What’s different for me is that when I go into an art gallery or read a published report, I am often only interested in the final product, not the struggle itself. When I look at student work, I am eager to enjoy both the outcome and the process. For students, the learning that happens during the project is every bit worth celebrating as the product itself.

I know no more compelling example of this than the story Ron Berger of Expeditionary Learning tells about of how Austin learned to draw a butterfly.

What is important here is not just the progress Austin makes as he works; we all know that our work gets better when we revise. It is that Austin’s struggles can be used to show other students (and adults) that any difficult and complex task can be achieved if we tackle it in steps and have a team to help us. We are all capable of drawing a beautiful butterfly if we start with the basics and add a little detail each time. That’s the story that often gets lost when we display student work.

Think about the truly spectacular pieces of student work you’ve seen (if you want inspiration, try Expeditionary Learning’s Center for Student Work or High Tech High’s project archive). Think about the stories behind the projects. How did the students get there? What were the steps?

What have your students done? Share with us both the final products and the steps they took to get there. It helps us all get closer to drawing that butterfly.

Join Todd Felton as he shares stories about students striving for excellence during projects. Hangout with BIE: Student Stories: High Quality Work and How They Got There can be viewed live on October 30, 2013, at 5:00 pm pst or 8:00 pm est, or archived there after.