Is it as simple as bringing real-word goals into the classroom through project-based learning (PBL)? PBL is a key component, but I think we need to take this a step further. As educators, we need to support change by allowing students to experience the actual process within a career and introducing them to the necessary career skills along the way.

10 steps to support change

  1. Create conducive learning spaces with resources to accommodate the curriculum and required skills.
  2. Assign a problem/project that highlights the content that you want students to learn in your curriculum.
  3. Allow time for research to learn how to troubleshoot the project at hand.
  4. Prompt students to write an essential question that they have about the content explored.
  5. Introduce a guest speaker in the field of study to highlight a “day in the life” of their job.
  6. Encourage students to work alone and in groups, knowing that they must communicate, share ideas, and participate in class discussions.
  7. Create a project to-do list with benchmarks and checkpoints for stages of completion.
  8. Highlight participation in daily tasks (writing emails, setting up meetings, and dealing with time-management issues).
  9. Lead students through the professional process required to accomplish their project goal.
  10. Assess students on how well they met all the steps towards their goal.

In the end, there shouldn’t be a grade simply based on learning the content. The students should be able to answer the notorious question, “Why do I need to know this?” by working through the process and applying the content to a real-world situation. The content is learned through inquiry and research by designing, creating, and problem-solving. The grading becomes a performance level that needs to be met. Did the students meet the criteria to work on the project and accomplish the goal? This should be the type of question educators ask and students answer to satisfy the criteria for the new jobs of the future.

About the Author:

Dianne Pappafotopoulos is a certified instructional technology specialist and teacher at Dover Sherborn (MA) Public Schools, where she teaches technology/programming courses and assists faculty and staff to integrate technology into the K-12 curriculum. With a masters in education and a combination of teaching, business, and technology experience, Pappafotopoulos is well-versed in the types of resources and pedagogy that work well in the classroom to engage students and enable teachers to feel confident with technology-rich lessons.