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Project Based Learning – Building Readiness for College, Career, and Responsible Citizenship

Post Date:10/12/2016 1:33 PM

Laird_GAP 2016_6984_400x244What does it mean to be ready for college or career? Based on their research, leaders at the Buck Institute for Education advocate that critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem solving, self-management, persistence, and being able to transfer learning to new and different situations lead to college and career success. Due to technological and economic changes, students graduating high school or college face a very different job market and life than previous graduates. As best-selling author of The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner explains, “I have yet to talk to a recent graduate, college teacher, community leader, or business leader who said that not knowing enough academic content was a problem. In my interviews, everyone stressed the importance of critical thinking, communication skills, and collaboration.”  These identified skills are exactly what the Gold Standard for Project Based Learning (PBL) targets, in addition to the academic content of a project.

This past May and August, 175 teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches from Tempe Elementary received three days of intensive professional development from the Buck Institute, learning how to implement PBL. Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. PBL leads students to master core academic content while inspiring them to think differently about themselves as learners, collaborators, and leaders.

A PBL experience gives students a chance to apply the skills they learn in school to relevant and real-world situations. A project is motivating to students and they remember what they have learned long beyond the length of the project. In a PBL environment, a challenging problem or question is posed and students engage in the process of finding resources, asking more questions, and applying their learned information to come up with a solution. During the process, students reflect on their activities, give and receive feedback to improve their work, and finally make their project work public through display or presentation. Some examples of driving questions include:

·      How can we reduce the waste on our school campus?

·      What makes a community healthy?

·      How might animals evolve in a changing climate?

·      As a tour guide, how would we create a historical tour of our city for visitors?

Project Based Learning goes beyond “covering” content and develops deep understandings and success skills. Multiple learning standards are addressed through the project and many times across multiple content areas. To learn more about Project Based Learning, visit:

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