Last school year I had the opportunity to go all in on something big: Project Based Learning. it has been a long time dream of mine to bring PBL to my classroom in a meaningful way and I am grateful to have the opportunity to not only teach using PBL, but to also be an advocate for it, not only in my building, but within my district.
I started researching Project Based Learning a few years ago, and found that I was already sold on some of its components: cross-curricular teaching, student reflection, student voice & choice. As I started to research more, I took to PBL like a fish to the water. It was like I had found my voice.
I want to note that I am still utilizing Gamification in my classroom and I will get a follow up post up sometime in the future with how I have integrated the two into my classroom.
Transitioning to PBL was not easy (is not easy). But as I embarked upon this new adventure, I found that it was hard work that I wanted to do. It is not easy to cross check standards. It is not easy to set formative assessments months in advance. It is not easy to hunt down a community connection or resource. It is not easy to set up pages for your students to easily conduct safe guided research. It is not easy to research critique protocols when the one that you tried did not work. And it is certainly eye opening (and not easy) to realize that the unit that you just taught had components of Project Based Learning, but when compared to the Gold Standard Rubric, did not check all the boxes.
But I would not trade away any of it. Cross checking the standards to get the most out of my lessons and assessments makes every minute of instruction and assessment worth it. Planning my formative assessments months in advance means that when the day of comes, I am not scrambling for an assessment, it's ready to go. Searching for community connections has proven to be one of the biggest bangs for my teaching buck. When the students realize that other people outside of school and their family are interested in what they have to say, it gives them a larger buy in.
And when I reflect back on that first unit, while comparing it to the rubric, I know that I am modeling the same skills that I am teaching my students. It's a work in progress, and I might not be there yet, but I will get there.
When I started this transition to PBL, I knew it would not be easy, but it certainly is worth it. This year and 3/4 teaching and advocating for PBL has been the most meaningful journey yet that I have embarked upon.
As educators, we are often asked, "What's your Why?" or "Why do you teach?" and I have come to say and know that teaching using PBL has allowed me to empower my students in ways that I could not believe were possible.
As Theodore Roosevelt said,
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."This, teaching using Project Based Learning, empowering students, and advocating for others to investigate and explore PBL is, for me at least, the work worth doing.
I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with PBL with you all in the future. And in the mean time... What's your Why? What's your "Work worth doing"?
To learn more about Project Based Learning check out PBLWorks.