Part 2: Leading by Doing: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

March 21, 2017

This blog originally appeared on Batik’s Brain Pickings

Identifying the Objective.

Recently, I shared the reasons why I am using Project Based Learning as a design model for our professional learning as a campus. This week, I would like to describe the early steps of that process.

I was hired in early July to be the principal of New Tech High @ Coppell. Any time you enter a new system (I was hired from outside the district) and especially a new campus, it can take some time to review the data, make observations, and develop a plan. The goal is to make sure that the plan that is created is not just driven by the traditions of the school or by the proclivities of the new leader, but by the current and future needs of the campus.

The first step in designing a lesson, project, etc. is understanding what standards, objectives, or essential questions that need to be obtained. When designing professional learning, the process begins just the same, the only difference is the question must be answered for adult learners. As a project based campus, our objective will always include ensuring that we are utilizing PBL effectively to meet learner needs and to ensure learner success. The question then becomes, what other standards, objectives, essential questions do we need to address.

For our campus, we find ourselves facing a set of logistical challenges that are likely to produce changes in the way that we meet our goals. These logistical challenges and changes are creating a sense of urgency for us to reimagine what instruction in a PBL world looks like. The reason for this change, is that our sister campus (that our students bus to for extracurriculars) is changing their bell schedule next year to what is referred to as a modified block schedule. I’ve roughly outlined the change below:

When looking at all of this information with our instructional coaches, the question I asked was “What are our standards?”. As a staff, what is the learning objective that we need to accomplish and how will we know when our adult learners have accomplished it? From the outset, we came very quickly to some version of this problem statement: How do we as PBL educators modify our instructional practices so that learners will be successful in a modified block schedule with “workshop days”?

Of course, there is a lot to unpack in that statement (what is learner success? what are our current instructional practices and why do we need to modify them? how do those practices reflect the PBL model? etc.). I look forward to continuing to share our journey with you via this blog as we unpack this statement and endeavor to provide relevant learning experiences for our staff that will lead to their doing the same for our learners.

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