PBL - Introduction

“Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of society... But for me, education means making creators... You have to make inventors, innovators, not conformists.” – Jean Piaget

PBL is a way to teach Piaget’s way, for our students to be “inventors and innovators”.

This simple 5 step model can be used as a guide to introducing PBL.

Step 1: Challenge via Essential Questions

One of the ways to promote real learning and launch a PBL module is to ask searching, engaging questions, or better still to assist students to develop their own. 

Step 1: Challenge - Launching a project

What is the 14th Habit of Mind? When was the last time you exercised this habit in a class?

To launch a project, it is important to create some kind of an excited “vibe”. There are many different ways of doing this. Creativity, fun and resourcefulness are called for! 

Step 2: Gather - Collecting information

The main principle to be followed here is that Gathering information happens before and is separate from trying to do something with it. The mistake students make is to take information unthinkingly direct from the source to the final product. This truncated process leads to a superficial understanding of the topic and copy/paste plagiarism.

Step 3: Process - Organise and arrange information

Separating Step 2 (Gathering Information) from this step allows for a proper focus on making the most of the information which has been gathered. This does not mean that there one cannot go back to gather more info as gaps might become apparent.

Step 4: Present - Share the findings

This step also benefits from being separated from the previous ones. Often one sees students getting carried away with making a beautiful presentation, but not having any meaningful content in it. 

If the information has been properly gathered, summarised and organised, that is a good basis for many different ways of using the information. It will be “in the students’ own words” rather than a cut-&-paste job. This should be an opportunity to let them exercise their creativity and find their voice.

Step 5: Reflect

Why do we do projects? The skills learned through project work are invaluable life skills. Each of the stages develops important cognitive pathways through building academic, social and emotional skills. It is important to make the most of the investment of time and energy by reflecting on the process and what has been learned. With projects, it’s all about the process.

Summary: PBL and Habits of Mind

All the Habits of Mind can be linked to various aspects of the PBL process, but some are particularly closely tied.

Make your teaching a PBL project

Do you feel like you are doing all the work in class? Explaining and explaining… and sometimes it might feel like it was all for nothing when you see test results. Maybe you need to make a Project in which you study yourself.