What is #PBL and how do I do it?!

Our big focus in BISD this year is project based learning.  However, the PBL process can be a beast and I think sometimes overwhelm a teacher before they even get started.  I created a one-page, non-threatening document to share with BISD teachers with a few easy steps to understanding what PBL really is and how to do it.  Please feel free to use, republish, share or modify to meet your own needs!

What are the basics of PBL and how do I do it?

  1. Significant content - plan a project that the kids will care about
    1. Start with CSCOPE Unit Performance Indicators and TEKS (must be standards-based!)
    2. Consider current events, community problems, school issues - connect it to real-life!
  2. A Need to Know - hook the students so they’ll be engaged and initiate questioning
    1. Plan an “entry event” to grab their attention (video, speaker, discussion, field trip, mock scenario, Skype - ask your administrator/instructional coach/instructional tech to help!)
    2. Here you can introduce key vocabulary and brainstorm a list of questions after the event
  3. A Driving Question - should challenge the students and give them a sense of purpose
    1. Use “Critical Friends” process to brainstorm and craft the perfect question with your team.
    2. The Driving Question should be provocative, open-ended, complex and linked to the core of what you want your students to learn (go back to the TEKS and Performance Indicators!).
  4. Student Voice and Choice - give your students ownership in their final product
    1. Provide a variety of product choice examples (3-5 is ok...doesn’t have to be wide open!)
    2. Design the project with the extent of student choice that fits your own style and students.  
  5. 21st Century Skills - collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking & TECHNOLOGY
    1. Utilize planning forms, team contracts, question slips - be sure to set clear expectations.
    2. Opportunities to build 21st century skills will serve students in the workplace and in life!
    3. Don’t have enough computers? PBL works great with learning stations/centers!
  6. Inquiry and Innovation - answer questions with a question!
    1. Encourage inquiry and collaboration among students - don’t just give away the answer!
    2. Constantly revisit the list of questions you brainstormed from entry event and add to it.
    3. Your students should question, research, discover answers, generate new questions, test ideas, and ultimately draw their own conclusions without you handing them the information.
  7. Feedback and Revision - set timelines, have checkpoints, and use rubrics for learning outcomes
    1. In addition to providing direct feedback, coach students in using rubrics to critique their own and one another’s work.  Make rubrics available up front - have clear expectations.
    2. Set timelines for individual and products products and have checkpoints along the way.
    3. It’s ok to direct teach (“workshops”) and have written assessments accompany rubrics.
  8. Publicly Presented Product - more meaningful when it’s not done only for the teacher or the test
    1. Invite parents, colleagues, etc. and have presentations outside of normal classroom.
    2. When students present their work to a real audience, they care more about its quality.
    3. Your Instructional Technology Specialist and Instructional Coach can help you set this up!

Get the Google Doc here.