PBL Field Guide: Where are you starting?

I’m reading Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  This field guide encourages the user to focus on and record details that matter.  Blogging these reflections is strongly encouraged.

The first reflection asks “Where are you starting?” [p. 10]

  • Where are you starting your journey?  Why?
  • If you have already used the project approach with students, what did you like or dislike?
  • What would you like to learn to do better in the future?
  • Do you have regular opportunities to collaborate with colleagues?
  • Where do you turn first to sound out new ideas for your classroom?

Our Learning for Life vision statement calls for six essential actions in our community to embrace the challenges and opportunities for 21st century teaching and learning.

  • Integrated Studies – Studies that integrate rather than separate
  • PBL – Problems that require critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration
  • 21st Century Learning Environments – Schedules and Spaces that fit learning
  • PLC/Critical Friends – Teachers in teams supporting learning and innovation
  • Balanced Assessment – Assessments and Feedback that promote learning and growth
  • Global Citizenship – Content and Relationships that connect us to the larger world and the world to us

I have been using pbl in the math since 1996.  In 1996, I was appointed as the laptop program coordinator at The Kiski School.  I embarked on a journey to develop real-world data collection lessons for our learners to search for data online to mathematically model data, real data.  See Phases of the Moon…Middle School Connections with Trigonometry and Science, Stopping Distances, and Turnpikes, Toll Roads, Express Lanes as three examples.

Since 2010, Bo Adams and I have been facilitating a PBL course called Synergy for our 8th grader learners.  Synergy is an interdisciplinary, non-departmentalized, non-graded, community-issues, problem-solving course.  See Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Part II…Game Plans from Bo’s blog It’s About Learning, Synergy: a course I’d love to take, then teach from J. Burk’s blog Quantum Progress, and Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming from my blog.

I like teaching with inquiry and data collection through projects because of the engagement, interest, and questions from my learners.  They are in control of the curriculum.  A book does not bind their learning.  Their questions lead to new questions and new learning.  They find application of what is to be learned.  I like that my classroom is student-centered, conversational, loud and active.  Learners feel empowered to ask and answer questions.  Watch our learners in actions (Synergy 8 Update – Week 3, Part II…Game Plans and Synergy: Complexity~Simplicity, Collaboration & Brainstorming) to have a glimpse of how in charge of their learning they have become now that they are in a PBL course.

Bo and I continue to work on assessment and feedback for our learners.  The same is true for our Algebra I team.  We are working on a formative assessment plan for our learners to help them level up in the skills and competencies of our essential learnings.  For examples of our rubrics see:

We have a good start, but assessment and feedback is an important area of learning for my teams and me.

Bo and I serve as the co-directors of our Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which provides us daily and weekly opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.  I meet daily with the math and science teachers in the Junior High.  Bo and I meet weekly with the JH English, JH History, and JH Language teachers.  We also co-facilitate the PLC Facilitators PLC.  We regularly sound out ideas for essential learnings, projects, lessons, pedagogy, and assessment in these team meetings.

The Algebra I team practices pbl as a team and conducts peer observations as a form of lesson study.  See Beginnings of Lesson Study ~ We rather than me and Lesson Study, Observation 2.0, Algebra I, Jet Plane for examples.  Bo and I plan, implement, and debrief regularly to improve and hone our skills.  Our most important team of collaborators is comprised of our Synergy learners.  As a 26-member team, we learn together.  We brainstorm ideas and strategies together.  We give each other feedback.

So, that’s where I am… Where are you on your PBL journey?   How have you constructed your support and learning team?  Who and/or where do you turn for motivation?  Who serves as your sounding board?  How are you using current pedagogy and technology tools to learn by doing?


Boss, Suzie, and Jane Krauss. Reinventing Project-based Learning:  Your Field Guide to Real-world Projects in the Digital Age. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007. Print.


  1. […] PBL Field Guide: Where are you starting? | Experiments in Learning … Integrated Studies – Studies that integrate rather than separate; PBL – Problems that require critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration; 21st Century Learning Environments – Schedules and Spaces that fit learning; PLC/Critical Friends –… Source: jplgough.wordpress.com […]


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