"We see project-based learning as requiring collaboration, as student-directed, and more about the process than the product." - Rebecca Peters, Colorado Fellow
As America Achieves Educator Networks explores promising practices for career readiness, we prioritize learning from schools and educators about what they are doing to ensure students develop the skills needed to be successful. We share these practices with the intention of inspiring and connecting like-minded educators and sparking conversations about what it means to prepare students for a changing world of work.
Many educators in our network have implemented project-based learning in their schools and classrooms as part of their vision for ensuring all student possess the necessary competencies for career and life success. Below, several of these educators share how PBL can help students develop a deeper understanding of the skills valued by employers, a sense of ownership and purpose, and exposure to new career paths and local opportunities.
"Project-based learning is a hard teaching style to transition to, but the outcomes for my students were worth the personal struggle I went through to be able to teach in such a manner. My students gained all of the content knowledge they need to go to the next level of their education, but they have also gained life skills that aren't traditionally measured in the educational setting. I am satisfied with the year we've just finished because I know that my students had fun, made cool projects, had choice and voice in their learning, have built teamwork skills, have learned to be self-accountable, have learned to explore their curiosities, and will leave with an understanding of why the past is relevant in the present."
- Ashley Martinez-Doublin, Colorado Fellow and Educator at STRIVE Prep Green Valley Ranch
"Project- or problem-based learning is what happens when we dissolve the invisible boundaries between content areas in order to help students engage with the world as it is - transdisciplinary, complex, and messy. We see PBL as requiring collaboration, as student-directed, and more about the process than the product. We also emphasize authentic audience as opposed to just handing something into the teacher. We do a lot of student presentations: to each other, to other classes, to community members, etc.”
- Rebecca Peters, Colorado Fellow and Program Manager at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools
“Project-based learning is something that is embedded in every unit of my AP Government and Politics class. PBL allows my students to explore the concepts on their own and then apply what they've learned to a real-world situation, all while working on critical soft-skills that are needed for success in both post-secondary education and in the job force. For example, when learning about Forms of Government, students are given the task to advise a newly created country on the best form of government for that country. This requires them to research different forms of government, evaluate information to determine the best form of government for the fictitious country and then present it to a panel who will vote to accept that as their form of government or choose another one instead. Students are given freedom of choice in how to present their form of government and have to work together as a group over the unit of instruction to complete their project and present it. Not only do students learn in-depth different forms and elements of government, but they also get the chance to conduct research, manage their time and develop communication skills.”
- Meredith McGovern, Louisiana Fellow and Educator at Parkway High School in Bossier City
Do you have great ideas for projects but are unsure how to fund them?
Michigan Alumni Fellow and Educator Barbara Gottschalk published a book that guides educators through each step of the grant-writing process, answering common questions and providing examples from real, successful grant proposals. Says Gottschalk, “My school has done great work with project-based learning...All of this was grant funded. The point I want to make is that there is money out there - teachers just need to find it.”
Updates from the Educator Networks
In June, Colorado Fellows met in Fort Collins to continue their work on the development of industry-aligned, performance tasks based on real problems of work and21st century employability and success skills. At the convening, these educators participated in sessions with Project Lead the Way, Center Point, Colorado Succeeds, and Colorado Workforce Development Committee and toured Tolmar Pharmaceuticals to learn more about local industry demands. Learn more about the Colorado Fellowship here.
A huge congratulations to Louisiana Educator Voice Fellow Spencer Kiper on being named the Louisiana Teacher of the Year! Kiper, a STEM educator in Bossier Parish, will represent his state at the 2019 Teacher of the Year competition.
Project-based learning is an important part of Kiper's teaching practice, and he includes the community in his efforts to provide students with real-world experiences and broader learning, such as hosting a STEM movie night. Says Kiper, “PBL has to go beyond the school to be authentic - it has to have a component that engages community and industry.”
Read more about Kiper and this prestigious award here, and visit Kiper's personal website to learn more about his STEM projects. You can follow Kiper on Twitter at @2019LATOY.
(Picture from Shreveport Times)