PBL Starter Kit: “Getting Started”

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Since starting my “Coach a Colleague” PBL, I have found myself going back to PBL Starter Kit over and over again. Each time I go through the book I find new information that I can use. PBL Starter Kit has become a huge resource for me as I have begun coaching someone else through the PBL process. Both my colleague and I have found the first chapter of the book, “Getting Started,” to be extremely helpful.

The first topic of this chapter discusses how to develop an idea for a project. The authors suggest creating projects that are relevant to students, revolve around what happens outside of school, pertain to issues in the community, or stem from standards that student need to meet. There are so many ways of how to get started. I think that sometimes educators struggle with ideas for projects. They worry that their ideas are not creative enough, or do not allow for enough authentic learning. I think that this chapter eliminates the struggle of developing a project. Not only do the authors give tips of how to get started, but they also supply the reader with a list of online resources with specific project ideas.

After developing a project idea this chapter presents how to specify goals for learning. Obviously there has to be a purpose and student learning behind everything that is done in school. It is best to think about the goals students need to meet with this project, before it even begins. The authors recommend selecting one to three power standards that students should meet. PBL also allows students to reach 21st century skills, which are crucial to students’ success in our global economy. A sample of these skills includes collaboration, presentation, critical thinking, and problem solving. However, educators need to remember that they should be teaching the skill that they are assessing. In my own PBL, I assessed students on collaboration and presentation. The students knew their grades would reflect how well they worked together and how they presented their information to the class. I encouraged critical thinking and problem solving, but these skills were not formally assessed in my PBL. A lot of projects and assignments that students are required to do in class today do not assess 21st century skills. I think it is vital that all assignments, whether they are PBL driven or not, allow for the use and assessment of a student’s 21st century skills.

The scope of a project is also discussed in this chapter. I think this is very important, because each class is different. Each classroom has different requirements, time frames, students, and resources to work with. Each educator’s classroom will have a direct effect on how his or her PBL will be created and implemented. The key with PBL is to start small. Once educators get the hang of using PBL in their own classroom, projects can become more ambitious. I know that my first project was slightly overwhelming, but I am ready to take on more during my second PBL.

Finally, the authors discuss in depth the importance of a solid driving question. The driving question to any PBL must be challenging, open-ended, and linked to the core of what students are expected to know. The chapter gives many different types and examples of driving questions, which I loved. For my PBL, I incorporated a very abstract driving question: “When do we lose our innocence?” I think most of my students understood the question by the end of the project, but some were still confused. Many students had a difficult time approaching such an abstract question. I think this was because the students were so used to answering explicit questions with clear cut answers in their past school experiences. I believe that the driving question is the center of PBL. The driving question guides the whole project, and dictates the type of student learning that will take place.

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