What does it take for a teacher to become Project-Based Learning Proficient?
Project-Based Learning for Beginners
Many teachers are familiar with project-based learning but I've found very few actually use it in their classes, or if they do, are not using it properly. In my first semester teaching I used a workbook from the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) that had projects for economics. As much as I liked the projects, after reading an article from BIE, I realized I was doing it wrong. The article explains that PBL is designed to be the "main course, not the dessert." Looking back at my lessons, I found that I taught the material first, then gave a project at the end. Proper PBL should involve learning through the project, not prior, as well as other key elements to help students develop certain skills that were not being utilized during my direct instruction, most notably the 4 C's of 21st century skills.
Why PBL for beginners?
When I attempted to run PBL in my classes with no training, I knew something wasn't right but couldn't put my finger on what that was. I knew so little that I didn't even know what questions I should have. I looked at website after website and found many projects, but no instruction on how to run it.
When I spoke to other teachers who have contemplated using PBL in their classrooms, I found that many of them were reluctant to teaching through projects because they too had questions and no where to turn. I decided that I wanted to help teachers who wanted to use PBL in their classrooms take that first step and learn the basics of PBL. With the Common Core standards that most states are adopting, the faster teachers become comfortable with PBL, the easier the transition can be. Though other teaching strategies will allow for student success in the Common Core era, PBL is the ideal way to maximize student achievement as well as preparing them for their future, no matter what course they take after high school.
This project was presented to the principal of Vintage High School when he asked my classes to develop norms for the school for the upcoming program where students will be able to bring their own technology devises to class.
This link above is a collection of quotes from students after one semester of doing PBL in my classes. The last question on their final was "Why are we learning through projects and should we continue next semester using PBL" and these quotes are some of their responses. Out of 118 students, I had only one student who was dissatisfied with PBL and it was likely because he didn't take school seriously and others didn't want to group with him. I'd say that 117 out of 118 are results I can live with!