Y'all Ready for This? (Part 3)

After many discussions over many years, and more recently on this Facebook page, I have learned that when it comes to Project/Problem Based Learning ("PBL") teachers tend fall into one of four camps of readiness:

1. Enough already! 
"Been there, done that!" 
These teachers have tried PBL, have had a negative experience, and won't be re-visiting it anytime soon.

2. Ready, willing and able
"Been there, done that... and bought the t-shirt!" 
These teachers have enjoyed a lot of success with PBL, they swear by it, and will continue to use it with a passion.

3. Ready, set...
"I''d like to go there but ...."
These teachers are 'PBL-curious' but not yet confident to take the leap.

4. Ready never.
"I'm not interested. Not going there."
For these teachers PBL is not on their radar or bucket list.

Now we could discuss at length all of the pros and cons of PBL, its popularity or infamy, or the pedagogical arguments for and against, but, as Jonathon Mascorella makes the point on this Facebook page: "PBL has a very complex network of issues".

Yep. It's complicated.

For example this comment from Laura Delli-Pizzi, a teacher retraining in psychology: 


And I have heard many teachers (and even students!) echo Malcolm Purvis' comment: "My experience is that most kids flounder - they sometimes look busy but don't achieve a great deal."

No wonder so many teachers concede with Katherine Mahns: "I have to admit, I am sitting on the fence with PBL".

On the other hand, Jonathon M and many other teachers have "had some massive successes with PBL". But those teachers who've had that positive experience all give similar reasons for the success: Amy Kaal-Stork commented, "I found it successful when you scaffold the process for them. Give them templates to fill in roles, responsibilities, time lines etc."

Further, "the key to its success", Rita Gruening-Fankhauser explains, "is that one must teach the supporting knowledge and skills before and during the project/problem".

But here's a good question that will cause us to take a quick reality check: "PBL is not even in the curriculum, so why on earth would any teacher want to teach something extra that doesn't work?"

The surprising answer is found in Mel Valent's comment:


So you might say that successful Project Based Learning is Design Thinking done well. Or, as I like to put it: Design Thinking is the new PBL. 

And it's now in the curriculum... and... it's compulsory for K-8!

So, how do we get ready for this?

More on that next week.

James Phelps

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