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October 27, 2017
PBL Book Recommendations

by John Larmer
Editor in Chief

There’s a stack of books piling up on a corner of my desk, all about or related closely to Project Based Learning. It’s a good sign for education that more and more books promoting meaningful, authentic, inquiry-based learning are popping up all over. I confess to only having skimmed some of these (so far!) and some have been recommended to me but are not on my desk yet. This is not a comprehensive list of all the PBL books published in 2017, but check out:

Rigorous PBL by Design by Michael McDowell

The author is a former member of BIE’s National Faculty who has taught in and led PBL schools. This book gets into the heart of ensuring deep, transferable student learning in PBL, making connections to the research of John Hattie, who wrote the foreword.

The Power of a Plant by Stephen Ritz with Suzie Boss

Founder of Green Bronx Machine Stephen Ritz is a whirlwind of teaching energy, as people who heard him keynote three times at PBL World know. BIE National Faculty member (and my co-author) Suzie Boss has helped tell the story of how he transforms students’ lives in the South Bronx with real-world projects in which students grow plants for food and market their crop, promote a healthy diet, and green urban neighborhoods.

The Epic Classroom: How to Boost Engagement, Make Learning Memorable, and Transform Lives by Trevor Muir

Written by another member of our National Faculty, this one comes highly recommended. Trevor explains the power of storytelling and brain science and connects this to PBL.

Developing Natural Curiosity through Project-Based Learning: Five Strategies for the PreK–3 Classroom by Dayna Laur and Jill Ackers

Authored by two more members of BIE’s National Faculty (they’re a stellar group!), this book fills a niche by helping pre-K teachers provide their kiddos with authentic learning experiences that begin to build success skills.

The Listening Leader: Creating the Conditions for Equitable School Transformation by Shane Safir

This one is not directly about PBL but it connects, since PBL can be a tool for promoting educational equity. The author, who works with BIE through the National Equity Project, offers a thorough set of tools and strategies for school leaders who want to build relationships with stakeholders, gather data by listening to students, staff, and parents, and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation.

Learning That Lasts: Challenging, Engaging, and Empowering Students with Deeper Instruction by Ron Berger

This author needs no introduction to the PBL crowd, but Ron once again has written a book that will inspire educators and help transform teaching and learning.

Moving the Rock: Seven Levers WE Can Press to Transform Education by Grant Lichtman

The author recently wrote a blog post for us explaining how PBL, if done well, can play a key role in “transforming education past a model built for the Industrial Age.” He promotes ways that school communities can get around the barriers to educational change in government and our society.

Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

Here’s another one that was recommended to me but I haven’t bought yet. Looks like it will be useful to PBL teachers.

Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy

I’m not sure PBL can be “hacked” as I understand the term, since there’s no getting around the complexity of doing it well, but this book has some useful, practical tips for teachers, told mostly from an elementary school perspective.

Charting a New CourseReinventing High School Classes for the New Millennium by Eric E. Castro and Paul Totah

The authors, who are teachers in San Francisco, tells stories of innovative courses in various subject areas, in both private and public schools. Featured are some current and former members of BIE’s National Faculty, and our friends and fellow travelers Justin Wells of Envision Schools and Ben Daley of High Tech High.

Real and Relevant: A Guide for Service and Project-Based Learning by Katy Farber

The author, with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education in Vermont, offers clear guidance for designing and managing projects in which students serve their communities or the wider world, with many tools and examples.

There's one more excellent book by Suzie Boss which I'll be reviewing soon: All Together Now: How to Engage Your Stakeholders in Reimagining School.

 

Also check out the books from the Buck Institute for Education here.


 Comments

  • John,
    Great list-I’m looking forward to reading the ones I don’t already own-especially “The Listening Leader” since I’ve moved from PBL Coach to Principal of a New Tech HS. Ron Berger’s book is also a must read and usually ends up as a book study with staff. Thanks!
    Joanne

    Joanne Keim on October 30, 2017 
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