by Aaron Eisberg
I am currently a district academic specialist for Napa Valley Unified School District serving 950+ teachers. I support teachers in designing authentic projects but also the implementation and authenticity of their work. I focus on teacher best practices to support, scaffold, and differentiate the inquiry process to ensure deeper learning for all students.
I started my PBL journey like many teachers, in the classroom. Having an emphasis in inquiry in my masters program, I was a teacher who pushed back against this approach at first because of my ‘perceived notion’ that I couldn’t hold students accountable for their work. After a year in the classroom I was frustrated with students not retaining any knowledge we “covered” in class. A colleague asked me the same question that had driven me into the profession, about the content I was about to teach: “How is that content used in the real world?” That and a friend who was a doctor was my inspiration for the medical interns project.
My Medical Interns Project
My favorite project would be the first project I started, the Medical Interns project. (Ed. Note: This project is used as an exemplar in BIE’s PBL 101 workshop.) The first iteration of the project was not as refined as it is now. That is what makes this project my favorite. To see the growth, the great work of colleagues and other teachers across the country adding their twists and their authenticity is amazing.
The Medical Interns project was also my favorite project because it was where I learned how to be flexible to meet the needs of my students. Initially, I had only planned one product and one disease. However, as you can imagine, many complications arose from group dynamics, gathering need to knows and truly making it authentic. From that project on, I reflect on my work and how to make the work more authentic and how will I adapt to meet the needs of all my students. Ensuring proper scaffolding and embracing the inquiry process was and is the biggest driver for me.
My Work as a BIE Facilitator
Every opportunity that I have had to work with teachers has been inspiring. We all want that ideal graduate, we all work hard and strive to meet the needs of all of our students. It is an amazing experience to work with so many great educators!
Start small and focus on the process of inquiry. If we are authentic with connecting our content to our student’s lives we are more responsive to their needs. Their needs, their questions will lead to great inquiry and great projects. You can change the world, one student at a time!
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