This last Friday was a half day for our students which means that teachers had an opportunity for some professional development. I was lucky enough to be asked to lead one of the workshops on my passion and specialty: project-based learning (PBL). The workshop focused around the very basics of PBL and how it can engage students in authentic, meaningful learning. We also discussed how teachers new to PBL can dive in and get started with the daunting task of project planning. I am more than happy to share the details of my workshop below! I discuss the workshop as it happened in chronological order. I hope that it helps you in your potential adventure into project-based learning or, if you have tried it, is a nice review for you. Enjoy!
Step One: Project Exploration
High Tech High is a charter school organization located in San Diego, California. They are incredibly famous in the local San Diego community and with those who read consistently about innovation in schools. It is strictly a project-based learning schools that also, impressively enough, runs its own teacher credential program and Graduate School of Education (offering a Masters in Educational Leadership).
When exploring HTH’s website, an excellent place to start is on their Student Projects page. From here, you can analyze specific projects by doing the following:
- Look through the long list of projects and choose three (3). One should be a project dedication to your field of teaching. A second one should be a project outside of your field of teaching and new to you. The third one should be one of your choice.
- For each project, read through the project details.
- As you learn about all three projects, respond to and discuss the following three questions
- What impressed you?
- What similarities did you see between the three projects?
- What questions do you still have?
The purpose of this introductory activity is to show what is really possible with PBL, especially for those who are beginners. Seeing the innovative techniques that can be employed can spark some great inspiration for readers.
Step Two: The 6 A’s of Project-Based Learning
While this is obviously just a guideline, many PBL designs should center around the six A’s. Each of these characteristics are detailed in the PowerPoint below.
Now that you have a very basic understanding of what it takes to design a project, let’s design one! Use the following guidelines and, if available, design a project with teaching partner who is is in a completely different discipline than you are.
Step Three: Project Design
The details of this activity are discussed in the last slide of the PowerPoint above. To complete the activity, use the following Project Design Template to help you get started. This is my design template which was adapted from the many that can be found from various sources online. You can also find a link to the template here.