2. Don’t think PBL can be learned quickly; provide ongoing, sustained support.
One workshop is not going to do the trick, even a three-day workshop like the Buck Institute’s PBL 101. I think a face-to-face workshop that everyone in a school participates in is the best way to kick off a shared effort like adopting PBL, but follow-up instructional coaching is vital. Here’s where online learning and virtual coaching comes in. And here’s a reality check: It’s going to take three to five years for PBL to sink in, be done well, and become a permanent feature of a school’s program.
3. Have a shared model for PBL unit design; especially at the start of a PBL effort, don’t ask teachers to find their own various pathways.
This one may sound like it runs counter to current thinking about the need to avoid a “cookie-cutter” approach and allow for personalized learning, but if your goal is to implement PBL widely across grade levels and subject areas, teachers should have a common understanding of how to design PBL units. This allows them to share projects, collaborate, and compare and reflect on results. After they’ve learned the basics of PBL, teachers can choose what they need to learn more about individually or in need-alike groups, whether it’s how to write and use rubrics, manage student teams, scaffold student learning, and so on.
4. Think of collaboration time as PD time.
This is no longer a new idea, but it’s hugely important for teachers’ practice of PBL. School and district leaders must, and I mean must, make time in the weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule to allow teachers to plan projects together, find and share resources, and reflect on what they are learning (and celebrate accomplishments!).
5. School and district leaders need PBL PD too.
Again, no longer a new idea but key to making the investment in PBL pay off. Leading a school that uses PBL extensively requires skills leaders may not have or have had time to practice. They should model being a PBL-style learner. They will need to create new assessment systems and school cultures, and perhaps change the ways decisions are made or meeting time is used. And I can’t emphasize this enough: Leaders should attend PBL workshops and other PD events alongside teachers. Otherwise, they will not understand PBL in the same way or as deeply as the teachers, and not see what conditions are really needed for PBL to thrive.
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