Not only is the teacher’s life unique in the PBL classroom; students have a dramatically different experience in this model too. They may whine and complain at times, especially when a project is nearing completion, but it is really good for them. Here’s a few reason’s why:
Many of my students can’t think ahead past next period. Go read Ruby Payne if you don’t know why kids of poverty aren’t big on planning and organization. Planning ahead is a skill that can be learned but expect growing pains along the way. The long term focus of PBL helps students to learn goal setting, self assessment, creating a plan, monitoring progress, and time management. How are kids to be expected to learn these skills if they are never taught them?
Many skills can be embedded within the goals of a project. Rather than learning these skills in isolation or by doing trumped up projects, the kids learn the skills while learning important content. This includes 21st Century (ooo-weee-ooo!) skills like research, vetting and citing sources, product creation. It also includes timeless skills such as inquiry and reading/ writing skills.
Opportunities for differentiation are limitless. Projects can be differentiated for content, process and product. I was honestly never consistently good at differentiation until I started doing PBL. Now I’ve constantly got kids all over the room working on different things (or similar things in totally different ways). Hectic, yes, but it’s a blast. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Assessment for Learning
Assessment should be based around authentic products for a real-world audience. Grades are not important in this type of task because the push is to present a quality product, not on “getting a grade.” Because the teacher is not too busy “teaching,” they have time to mentor students, give personal feedback, have conversations about learning, and gather evidence about students that goes far beyond letters and numbers. Now that’s good assessment!
Next post in the PBL Series – How to do inquiry-based PBL
Previous Posts in the PBL Series
Part 3 - What PBL is and what it isn’t
Part 4 - The teacher’s role in PBL