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by Sarah Field
Curriculum and Program Manager

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July 10, 2017
It Takes a Village: Maximizing the Power of Industry & Community Partners in PBL

by Sarah Field
Curriculum and Program Manager

Industry and community partners can add incredible value and authenticity to projects, but we sometimes miss opportunities to fully leverage our partners throughout a project. As you deepen your work in PBL, consider the following opportunities for working with external organizations, businesses, and experts:

Beginning With the End in Mind: The Planning Process
Consider reaching out to partners during the project ideation process, or to gather targeted feedback on project plans that are in development. You might consider asking industry or community partners the following questions:

  • How do you use this content in your work? What does the context look like?
  • What kinds of products do you find yourself creating? What processes, tools, and resources do you find helpful?
  • What does collaboration/ presentation/ communication/ critical thinking look like in your work?
  • What authentic need does your organization have? Are there opportunities for our students to help address this need?

Ready, Set, Go!: The Entry Event
Project partners can help to engage student interest and set the stage for a project from the very beginning. Consider using a field trip, guest speaker, partner video, or live online chat with an expert in the field (or a potential class “client”) to pose the project challenge, kick off student inquiry, and provide an authentic “real-world” context for the project work that will follow.

Teach Me Everything You Know: Scaffolding
Community and industry partners have a wealth of knowledge to share, and offer great opportunities to scaffold student learning and address need to know questions. Use partners as guest speakers, to provide workshops on specific topics, or to host field trips that help students to build their understanding of key project content and skills.

Better and Better: Critique
Consider inviting partners to join students for mid-project critique protocols. Not only will partners be able to provide valuable feedback to students that is grounded in deep expertise, they may even be willing to share the critique and revision processes that they use in their own professional contexts.

Show and Tell: Project Presentations
One of the most popular ways to leverage industry and community partners on projects is as audiences for student project presentations-- the “Public Product” Element of Gold Standard PBL. Knowing that they’ll be sharing their work with an audience of experts (and maybe even future employers!) often motivates students to create high quality work and validates the hard work that students put into their project development.

Walking in Their Shoes: Teacher Externships/ Job Shadowing
Some schools and districts, including Metro Nashville Public Schools and schools that follow the Linked Learning model, offer externship programs in which teachers have the opportunity to engage in job shadowing and coworking with partners in industries that relate to their content-- for example, a chemistry teacher might spend time at a research laboratory or a pharmaceutical company. You might consider seeking out your own externship opportunity, with permission from administration or during a school break.

In addition to cultivating long-lasting relationships between schools and partner organizations, this type of collaboration can help you stay up-to-date on new developments in the field and authentic opportunities for application of the content and skills you teach. In addition, you’ll have an opportunity to talk with industry experts about the knowledge, skills, and understanding that employers look for when they’re hiring new talent, and share this information with your students.

Building relationships with businesses, organizations, and experts can sometimes seem daunting, but these external partners can add tremendous value to student learning at each stage of a project, and beyond!


We’d love to hear from you! What are some other ways that you have leveraged the power of industry and community partners for PBL?


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