PBL Puts the FUN in FUNdamentals!

As you are winding down your school year, it is a great time to think about ways to end the year with exciting and engaging learning for all your students. Deep learning has become a buzzphrase in many school districts and is really not a new type of pedagogy. It began with Socrates in ancient times, where he crafted learning experiences for his students that were relevant, needed them to master a skill or content, and required them to communicate, collaborate, be creative, and use their critical thinking. In the 1960s deep learning started making a comeback and is popular in the UK, Canada, and Australia. Michael Fullan has written several books sharing his metadata on the positive impacts of deep learning on K-12 students. Many of your districts have also focused on SEL and equity this year because of the stress our students have experienced over the past 2 years and you are being asked to provide teaching in these areas. The best way for you to address all these needs is with Project-Based Learning (PBL).
PBL uses real-world problems and future careers as a context to make learning relevant for all your students. It allows teachers to differentiate between academic support for struggling students, and challenging learning for advanced students. For teachers, PBL shows them the power of becoming the guide on the side, instead of always being the sage on the stage.

To select a PBL for your students to experience, think about the data you have collected about your class. If you have standards with which many students struggled, select a PBL that will give them the opportunity to master those standards. If your students are high achievers, meet with the teachers in the next grade to determine standards you can address that will prepare them to be successful in the next grade. If you are using Defined Learning, you can search by standard, grade level or topic to find an appropriate experience. If your school has not yet subscribed to Defined Learning you can access several free PBL units on the home page www.definedlearning.com

In conclusion, neuroscientists have found that mastering a skill requires a person to successfully repeat behaviors 300-400 times. However, if the person is having fun, they can master the skill in 10-12 repetitions. If you have never done a PBL with your students, this time of year is perfect for you to learn new strategies. There is definitive education research that K-12 students doing PBL, master standards quickly, learn deeply, and are excited about learning. The research also indicates that PBL provides avenues for success for all types of learners, so addresses equity. When students are given the opportunity to solve problems they are working on their SEL and growing in their ability to show empathy and compassion. When people experience music, the first 16 bars and the last 16 bars determine their response and appreciation of that music. Use this time in April and May to make a great lasting impression on your students as they enjoy learning in your class!

About the Author: 

Dr. Cindy Moss is currently the VP of Innovation for Defined. Dr. Moss brings over 31 years of experience in district leadership, classroom instruction, and inquiry-based learning to her work as a champion for STEM engagement and career & workforce readiness.


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