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October 13, 2017
What School Leaders Used to Think About PBL… and Now Think

by John Larmer
Editor in Chief

(Starting today, I will be alternating our PBL Blog’s Friday posts, with the PBL News roundup every two weeks and posts from me on various topics the other weeks.)

Near the end of the Buck Institute’s PBL workshop for school and district leaders, we ask participants to reflect on how their thinking about PBL has changed as a result of the workshop. Here’s a sampling of their (unedited) responses:


I used to think… Now I think…
PBL was like playing Germany in soccer It is more like playing the United States in soccer
I did not have a clue This is realistic for our district to implement
PBL should be optional for my staff It should be required because we owe it to our students to provide relevant, authentic experiences
We had to work in the confines of the school structure (schedule, timing, etc.) We are empowered to make greater change
We had a strong grade level PBL culture We need a strong school wide and community wide PBL culture
We could just keep doing PD as usual We need to implement PD that mirrors the structure of PBL
PBL was simple projects It includes authentic, high quality projects which have the ability to help all students become ideal graduates
PBL was teacher driven PBL is student driven
I would be overwhelmed with how to implement PBL at my site "on my own" (aka no district-wide support) I have a wealth of support and resources, including other admins and BIE contacts
I could teach my staff how to write PBL units relatively quickly I can't do it alone. The voices of my teachers, BIE training and inspiration are needed. I need to go slow, focus just on WHY this year, and be patient. You've lit a fire in me and my teachers and we are pumped to make this happen!
PBL was just a fun way to engage students This practice truly empowers students and teachers
This is going to be a battle with staff We can help staff to see the value in PBL and we can get staff excited about PBL
PBL would be one more thing It will support other initiatives like integrated curriculum and standards based instruction
PBL would engage the students and help them become active learners PBL will not only engage students, it will engage teachers
That PBL may be an "add-on".... that it would take too much time to do PBL will become a part of our teaching strategies... PBL fits into any curricular area and needs to be an essential method of student learning
How am I going to implement this I have a pretty good action plan
PBL was unique to my school It's a worldwide movement
I wanted to quit I am rejuvenated!
PBL was mainly for middle and high school teachers It is possible for elementary teacher to plan/design PBL projects
PBL was something you had to do all or none It can be a spectrum, pulling pieces in bit by bit and striving to get better and add more
That teachers intuitively understood the questions required to engage higher-order thinking skills, even if these were often explored after more conventional instruction That understanding questioning is an important precursor to developing teacher competence in PBL
PBL was a monumental and time-consuming task That PBL is attainable by any teacher at any point in their career
That facilitating change in a school was via a top down approach That facilitating change in an institution is a community wide charge where the voices of all stakeholders should be listened to and respected
PBL was better suited for some subjects compared to others PBL is a process open to all disciplines and all students
That implementing parts of PBL was a good idea It's best to dive in, provide ongoing support for the teachers and celebrate together our efforts (both successes and struggles)
PBL was cool PBL is really cool!

For information about BIE’s professional development services for school and district leaders, see our Services webpage.


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