How to Make PBL Your Lifelong Partner
by Brad Sever
As educators, we often talk about how our job is “all about relationships.” The same can be said of an educator’s relationship with their favorite strategies, methodologies, and overall pedagogy. My favorite instructional methodology is project-based learning.
In my book, Sustainable Project-Based Learning: 5 Steps to Designing Authentic Classroom Experiences in Grades 5-12, I have seen the benefit of project based learning in classrooms that have maintained a long-term commitment to PBL. But there are stages of developing a relationship with PBL, and each is important. Just like a relationship with a life-long partner, there are four stages in a relationship with PBL: flirting, dating, engaged, and married.
Let’s unpack this analogy as it pertains to project-based learning.
Stage 1: Flirting with Project-Based Learning Ideas
Sure, you use things like simulations and choice boards in your work already, but you never forget the first time you saw or heard about PBL. Perhaps it was in a college undergraduate class or through a colleague, or across the room at an education conference. There is a lot to be attracted to! Maybe you got project-based learning ideas by reading Wiggins and McTye’s brilliant book, Understanding by Design (ASCD, 2005). Backward planning a unit of study is something that resonated with you.
At first glance, PBL is very attractive. Consider its qualities and features:
Utilizing outside professional experts
Integration of key SEL or employability skills such as critical thinking, creativity, self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, etc.
Students transferring their learning to real-world contexts
What is not to love? These qualities intrigue you to want to learn more.