True project based learning (PBL) is sorely missing in the upper levels of education and this is a problem. I have noticed some misconceptions of PBL actually is, why it is so critical for our secondary students, and steps you can take.
If you are ready to jump into project based learning in your secondary ELA class but are feeling at a loss on how to get started, please consider joining my FREE introductory workshop to help support you in this journey and ease some of your stress!
First, let’s be clear on what project based learning is NOT.
It is not a “large assignment” chunked out in steps for students. Such as a research paper and you have them come up with the question first, then find three resources that answer the question, and then write the paper.
That is wonderful scaffolding for a skill that is still needed in our classrooms and even can be a part of it, but this alone is not the truest sense of PBL.
If it's engaging and "fun" then it can't be rigorous.
Well, that is just silly. You most likely have a house or at least an apartment. Isn’t is so fun when you find that perfect home and you walk in and make it your own? Wasn’t it also a MAJOR pain crunching the numbers, getting approved for loans, looking at various homes, maybe considering the right neighborhood for you and your family, packing your belongings, moving them, getting the insurance, and on and on. Just because there are some really fun aspects of this doesn’t mean it offered no challenge! And, honestly, isn’t the end result that much sweeter?!
PBL means they have to create something.
Not always true. Yes, sometimes ending with a physical product is fantastic and takes the project to a whole new level. In the broadest sense, students engaged in PBL solve a complex problem and defend their solution in an oral presentation or in writing.
So, if you go with the research paper idea above, you would also want students to reflect on the process in which they had found the research and what impact learning the knowledge had on their understanding of the problem. Kind of like how when you get your doctorate- first you write the incredibly long research paper and then you orally defend it.
PBL takes too long.
I won’t lie. There is a bit of truth here. It does take time in order to move through the process in an authentic way. I know at the secondary level, we have so much to cover and not nearly enough time. However, PBL is meant to zero in on only a handful of key standards/skills as a time and maybe your PBL can be the capstone of each quarter or each semester.
Why is it critical to secondary students?
Our students are living in a hyperconnected world and have to be able to think in non-linear ways. I absolutely implore you to check out this video from minutes 18 to 35 to see Thomas Friedman’s remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. It really highlights how we have to think differently about how we are setting up our students for success.
Any project that can be done year after year with no changes and end with the same results, is lower level and can be outsourced or mechanized. Any project that requires nonlinear thinking, decision making, and problem solving requires a human being- that is a job that someone can come to count on.
Being able to consistently improve and creatively reinvent that project to stay competitive- that’s a career.
I want my students to be in the second category and I know you do too.
You can check out my infographic here for even more reasons PBL is too critical for our students to not be using in our classrooms.
What can you do to implement more PBL in your secondary ELA classroom?
If you just want a great idea to run with, check out my blog post on one of my favorites (the Disney movie sales pitch) here! If you are looking for even MORE ideas and personal coaching from me on implementing this and other ideas for PBL into your classroom, join me! I will be hosting a FREE workshop via Zoom in June 2021. You can join the waitlist now and not miss a thing!
In this workshop, I will be sharing how I start building a PBL project, making sure the goals are standards aligned, and how I approach it with my students. I will also let you know my secret that always takes my student engagement up 1,000% and why they work incredibly hard.
I can’t wait to share some of these details with you so you can see what project based learning can look like in your own classroom! Be sure to sign up today!