How to Use Project-Based Learning to Enhance the PLC Process

by Brad Sever

I know Professional Learning Communities are designed to NOT pigeon-hole teachers into one type of instructional strategy.

PLCs are meant to provide teachers with the autonomy to adjust their instructional practices based on the needs of their students, whether that means PBL or not. I acknowledge this, but hear me out. Reading my friend and colleague Gabe Fernandez’s blog post about leading his school’s PBL work in 2019 inspired me to formulate some additional thoughts around PBL and PLCs.

What do we want students to know? How will we know if they know it? What will we do when they don’t know it? Those three key questions that PLCs should focus on have resonated with me since I started learning about Rick DuFour’s model of Professional Learning Communities. Professional Learning Communities have the potential to make such a high impact on learning. Providing teachers with opportunities to collaborate on crafting their own collective goals around student learning might be one of the most valuable things we can do as educators.

Project Based Learning can serve as a comprehensive framework to help cultivate meaningful conversations around DuFour’s three key PLC questions.

If I were to ask you what instructional practices (routines, strategies, activities, assessments, etc.) have proven to be successful for your students, you might say:

  • Socratic Seminars
  • AVID tutorials
  • Cornell Notes
  • Direct Instruction
  • An array of formative assessments
  • Bell ringers
  • Exit tickets
  • Scaffolding content to make it more accessible
  • Writer’s Workshop, Reader’s Workshop, Math Workshop

The list can go on. These are all fantastic strategies and activities. This leads to step 1 in how to connect PLCs to a PBL implementation effort at a school.

Brad Sever

About Brad Sever

Brad Sever is a national presenter, speaking on project-based learning, instructional coaching, and leadership. He has provided professional development for charter schools, urban, rural, and suburban schools for the last 10 years. In addition, he is a National Faculty member for PBLWorks (formerly the Buck Institute for Education). His practical approach to professional development comes from the variety of experiences and perspectives he has gained.