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April 21, 2015
Gold Standard PBL: Project Based Teaching Practices

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by John Larmer
Editor in Chief

by John R. Mergendoller
Senior Fellow

Adapted from Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning: A Proven Approach to Rigorous Classroom Instruction, by John Larmer, John Mergendoller, Suzie Boss (ASCD 2015). This post is also available as a downloadable article.

 

Teachers who make Project Based Learning a regular part of their teaching enjoy their new role, although for some it might take time to adjust from traditional practice. It’s fun to get creative when designing a project, instead of just using “off the shelf” curriculum materials. Most teachers like working collaboratively with their colleagues when planning and implementing projects, and interacting with other adults from the community or the wider world. And PBL teachers find it rewarding to work closely alongside students, tackling a real-world challenge or exploring a meaningful question.

When transitioning to PBL, one of the biggest hurdles for many teachers is the need to give up some degree of control over the classroom, and trust in their students. But even though they are more often the “guide on the side” than the “sage on the stage,” this most certainly does not mean that teachers don’t “teach” in a PBL classroom. Many traditional practices remain, but are reframed in the context of a project.

Design & Plan   
Teachers create or adapt a project for their context and students, and plan its implementation from launch to culmination while allowing for some degree of student voice and choice.

Align to Standards    
Teachers use standards to plan the project and make sure it addresses key knowledge and understanding from subject areas to be included.

Build the Culture    
Teachers explicitly and implicitly promote student independence and growth, open-ended inquiry, team spirit, and attention to quality.

Manage Activities    
Teachers work with students to organize tasks and schedules, set checkpoints and deadlines, find and use resources, create products and make them public.

Scaffold Student Learning    
Teachers employ a variety of lessons, tools, and instructional strategies to support all students in reaching project goals.

Assess Student Learning   
Teachers use formative and summative assessments of knowledge, understanding, and success skills, and include self and peer assessment of team and individual work.

Engage & Coach   
Teachers engage in learning and creating alongside students, and identify when they need skill-building, redirection, encouragement, and celebration.


 Comments

  • Great article.  I’m new to PBL and love this framework.

    razorteacher on April 26, 2015 
    [Reply to this comment]
  • Hi. I love PBL.  It was my most successful teaching model.  My question: Do you have any knowledge of adult education programs that are using PBL?  I would love to get some started.
    John Tibbetts, EdD. Professor Emeritus, SFSU and Consultant to
    American Institutes for Research (AIR). .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    john Tibbetts on June 5, 2015 
    [Reply to this comment]
    • Hi John,
      Unfortunately no, I don’t know of any adult ed programs that use PBL.

      John Larmer on June 12, 2015 
      [Reply to this comment]
    • You could post your question on the Edmodo PBL community and someone might know.

      John Larmer on June 12, 2015 
      [Reply to this comment]
    • Hi John,
      Check in with Georgia Tech.  I just completed a class there for use with K-12, but they may have a class for college age.  At the very least you could use theirs or the BIE framework and you introduce the problem.

      daleweisingioannides on June 18, 2015 
      [Reply to this comment]
    • We are using PBL in our ESL program at community college.  We have been trying to use it in all our classes. We are all still learning how to facilitate it effectively.  It takes a lot of courage and patience but it seems to work well so far.

      abogue23 on March 24, 2016 
      [Reply to this comment]
  • HI John
    I just completed creating and teaching for the first time a course on Integrated Humanities for the Middle Level at the university where I teach.  I utilized a PBL approach as best as I could - it has been quite the journey. The teacher candidates loved the process and found it quite a refreshing change from typical college classroom learning!  I’m going to PBL World with the hopes of learning more so I can apply it to other courses.

    Sue C on June 18, 2015 
    [Reply to this comment]
    • Sue,
      Hope you enjoyed PBL World. Glad to hear you’ve had success with PBL in a college course - we don’t hear enough about that. If you’re interested in sharing your story, let’s talk about a blog or a Hangout!

      John Larmer on June 30, 2015 
      [Reply to this comment]
  • Hi John!
    Love PBL & BIE in particular.  PBL is my main strategy for integrating fiction reading with nonfiction research to investigate the broader world for my 5th graders.  When I read blogs encouraging teachers to take the leap and experience the interesting dynamics created as we become more of a guide through a learning process with our students, there is a sense that many teachers are fearful of losing control, of not feeling capable to pull off successful PBL which is unfortunate, 
    i have been teaching for 17 years this way before I knew there was a name for it and cannot imagine teaching any other way!  I would be so bored and probably pretty boring as well.
    Hopefully, the experience once tried will become ingrained in more teachers.
    Thanks for this awesome website & article!

    LisaConselatore on October 7, 2015 
    [Reply to this comment]
  • John, I love to see the Essential Project Design Elements right beside the Project Based Teaching Practices.  Is there something specific you have for school-based admins that are inspiring, supporting and monitoring the work along the way?  Love this work!!

    AmeliadDGVL on May 2, 2016 
    [Reply to this comment]

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