It’s More Than PBL

Q/A with Assistant Superintendent Steve Hope from Goshen Community Schools

NTN: What drew you to project-based learning?

Steve Hope:
It’s just natural learning. It’s the real world. When you’re in the workforce in any career, you work with other people and you solve problems and that’s what New Tech is. You’re given a real-world problem and you have a team to work with and you solve it. It’s great. If you really wanted to start a school from scratch and really study the best way to learn and teach, New Tech is what you would come up with.

NTN: How do you ensure that project-based learning serves all of your students?

Steve Hope: 
The thing I like about New Tech is that it doesn’t really matter what area of the workforce the student is going to enter. They have real problem solving experiences. It’s so experiential. The student development in those experiences will lend students to any type of job – whether its working at a credit union, engineering, nursing, or a public service member. New Tech will help with all of them.

NTN: What kinds of opportunities has the PBL model given teachers?

Steve Hope:
It pulls teachers together and helps English teachers understand math teachers, etc. You’re not forcing artificial connections, but it forces them to connect with each other. That really helps student learning because students see those connections too. They collaborate together. Sometimes they can be really messy, or have messy moments, but they all increase their capacity during that time. Better students become better learners.

NTN: What would you say to those successful traditional schools who are thinking about trying project-based learning?

Steve Hope:
What I would say to schools who are successful is that this type of learning allows our students to grow even more. They’re going to need these collaboration and communication skills, New Tech is going so far above traditional schooling. They’ll grow into productive adults who are going to grow in both secondary endeavours and their careers.

NTN: Time to brag a little – what successes would you like people to know about within Goshen Community Schools?

Steve Hope:
If this works in Goshen, it can work anywhere. It can be replicated anywhere. Our community is ours, but it’s a microcosm of the rest of the United States. A lot of other districts can relate to us and our demographics. It just works. It works for every student. We have New Tech Network students who are going to some of the best schools in our country. It also works for someone who is going to enter directly to the workforce here locally. When you have those types of outcomes, there’s really no argument.

NTN: What do you want other districts to know before scaling the New Tech Network model, positive or negative?

Steve Hope:
The coaching in the Network is wonderful. A lot of times teachers will get stuck, or they’ll feel stuck. And oftentimes administrators are not always thoughtful in our ability to coach teachers out of a problem. New Tech coaches know what to say and how to say it. They always get that precarious balance between letting something go and pushing forward. They’re always there – you can always pick up the phone and have a conversation.

The resources through Echo have been really wonderful. The sharing across the New Tech Network. It’s always better to have 200 ideas rather than two. There’s a lot to draw on there. It all goes back to the hands on, real world, relevant experiences.

It makes us better and makes us get out of our comfort zone. There really is a bigger world outside of our school. We should be tapping into that. We are going to make the whole world our classroom.