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March 10, 2017
Top 8 PBL News Stories

by John Larmer
Editor in Chief

Mar. 6 - 10, 2017

Each Friday we post a list of articles, blog posts, research studies, and other resources we’ve run across that relate to Project Based Learning.

Here’s what we liked this week:

How to End the Charter Schools War
Education Week
Ron Wolk lays out a very helpful perspective on the debate that’s ramping up with the arrival of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. He reminds us that the original purpose of public charter schools was to act as “innovation laboratories” (this is still true for those using PBL)—but many are “basically traditional schools on steroids, with longer hours, student uniforms, and strict discipline.” His “centrist” solution: “districts must build rich interaction with existing innovative charters and embrace the practices and philosophy that make those schools attractive to parents and students.”

The Need for a High-Quality PBL Model
Getting Smart
Emily Liebtag offers an overview (and nifty infographic) of the “why and how” of the process which an international group of educators, including BIE, is using to establish a set of “High Quality PBL Guidelines.” The initiative’s goal is to help ensure that PBL becomes a widely-adopted practice in 21st century education.

What the numbers really tell us about America’s public schools
Washington Post
David Berliner, an educational psychologist and long-time thought leader (and clear thinker) points out that U.S. public schools are not “failing” our wealthier students, who “are competitive with any nation in the world.” He makes a strong case for policies to promote greater equity and higher achievement for low-income students.

Should high school be more like the real world? These innovators think so
USA Today
This story from the XQ Super School Project describes Powderhouse Studios, a high school that will soon open in the Somerville, Massachusetts School District. Real-world PBL is at the heart of its program: “…students will be immersed in interdisciplinary projects that tap into their interests and ambitions. They’ll divide their days between seminars and project-based work.”

Performance Assessment Resource Bank
This not a brand-new resource, but I was reminded about it on Twitter this week and it’s a fantastic source of ideas for projects. The website has over 300 well-designed K-12 performance tasks in math, science, ELA, and history/social studies. Created by Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers' (CCSSO) Innovation Lab Network.

The Genius of Design
Educational Leadership/ASCD
A great article that begins with a visit by confused district office guests to “genius hour” in a classroom where the teacher/author tells them it’s about “inquiry, research, and creativity” as well as standards-aligned. I have reservations about genius hours if that’s all a school has when it claims to use PBL, instead of using PBL in “regular” classrooms and academic subject areas—but the author offers a good process for design thinking that aligns well with our model for Gold Standard PBL.

Helping Students Learn What Makes Them Tick
Education Week
Drew Schrader from the New Tech Network makes an excellent point: “the ebb and flow of a PBL classroom can create conditions where teachers have time and leeway to really listen to each student and learn what makes them tick.” He gives examples of when this can happen, via need to know lists, journals, group contracts, conferencing, and team teaching.

Pre-Service Teachers Skype with Project Based Learning Experts
College of William and Mary Center for Innovation in Learning Design
Pre-service teachers in the teaching methods course at William & Mary read the book I co-authored, Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning and had lots of questions about PBL and the projects they were designing. This post recounts the (well-edited) sage advice I and my BIE National Faculty colleague Brandon Cohen were able to give in a 7:00AM (PST) Skype call with the class.


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