Bringing PBL to Every Classroom

In collaboration with iBlocks, All opinions are my own

A new school year is the perfect time to try out different methods and tools that can amplify student learning and foster the development of essential skills. Project-based learning is a method that educators should definitely try in their classrooms because of all of the benefits it offers. According to the PBL Works of the Buck Institute for Education, PBL is “a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.” Different from traditional projects, PBL is an iterative process that requires reflection and continued goal-setting. It helps students to become more independent learners and to develop a greater motivation for learning.

When students engage in PBL, they begin to shift their focus from an end product of learning, to the process of learning itself. PBL is also a great option for addressing the 4 C’s of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. These are the skills that students need to be successful now and in the future.

As educators, we’ve all had our students do projects, but there is a big difference between this and PBL. Years ago, I thought that my students were doing PBL, however, they were only doing projects, in a very linear and finite learning experience. It was all about the end product and did not offer students the chance to build their skills and appreciate the process of learning itself. Different than traditional projects, authentic PBL will promote curiosity, facilitate student-driven independent learning, and enable them to develop the skills to work through and reflect on the productive struggle that can come through these learning experiences.

Finding time for PBL

PBL can be woven into our everyday curriculum. We can start small and gradually progress through a PBL experience. What we want is for the experience to be authentic, purposeful and relevant for our students. When they see the relevance and applicability of their work to the real world, it boosts their engagement and motivates them because it is more meaningful. Authentic PBL will have a positive impact on their learning experience.

We have so many different tasks in the work that we do and finding extra time can be a challenge. However, there are resources available for educators to use that make it less time-consuming and easier to bring PBL to their classrooms.

Getting started is easy with iBlocks

iBlocks provides teachers with everything they need to get started with PBL and STEM lessons in their classroom in a way that amplifies student choice and voice in learning. Teachers shift from being the sole creators of content and give students the opportunity to become leaders in the classroom and design their own learning experiences.

With iBlocks, there are so many choices available in content, especially in areas where we want students to build skills in understanding global issues, by looking at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With the different iBlocks available, students engage in purposeful learning and figure out how to solve some of the challenges being faced by people in the world.

The modules are student-led and teacher guided. The focus is on students demonstrating mastery in learning as they go through the process of self-assessing, collaborating with peers, and receiving ongoing support from their teacher. As they work through the modules, their comfort and confidence builds and they become more engaged in their project.

Deciding where to begin

Think about a topic that you cover and find an iBlock to use as an enrichment opportunity or dive into bringing STEM to your classroom. Either way, iBlocks provides you with all of the content that you need to be able to effectively implement PBL and design thinking in the classroom.

Each iBlock comes with:

  • A teacher’s guide that includes everything educators need to be able to facilitate the use of iBlocks with students. It also includes what the student workbook has so that teachers have guidance and tips to use as students work through the modules.
  • Workbooks for students which provide them with a space of their own, and guides them as they work through each module of the iBlock. Giving students a space where they can identify challenges, process their thoughts, ideate solutions and then reflect is so important for their learning.
  • Assessment materials for students to gauge understanding and develop SEL as they become self-aware and work on self-management skills during their project.
  • Lesson plans that include detailed descriptions, activities for the classroom, the expected outcomes from the lesson and more.
  • A Skills Matrix, which give the structure, the goals and the outcomes. The framework that is used offers all of the skills detailed in the Matrix

It is a 10-part sequence that ends in a Capstone project, which helps students to focus on the learning process they’ve been involved in rather than one finite experience like a traditional project. There are so many different topics involved in the experiential learning for students. It will foster Innovation, creativity and curiosity from learning

iBlocks is different

For teachers who want to dive in, they can. All it takes is a quick review of the materials and you can get right away. iBlocks offers an “out-of-the-box” experience in that it simply requires taking the materials out of the box to get started in the classroom.

One of my favorite iBlocks is the Rube Goldberg machine. There are so many benefits to having resources like this because it takes away a lot of the frustration and nervousness that can come with implementing a new method or trying a new tool. Everything we need is within the iBlock! If you take a look at all of the options available a great choice is applicable to ​STEM and ​STEM- related fields, and many will spark curiosity for learning and be really authentic meaningful, and engaging ​learning experiences for students.

Embracing the risk-taking and learning journey

If you have not implemented PBL into your classroom yet, then the start of the year is the perfect time to dive in. Don’t worry about being an expert. We must be willing to try, to fail, to learn from our mistakes and to try again. It can be uncomfortable at first, but it sets a good model for our students and helps us to continue to grow in our practice.

For teachers who are considering PBL but may be a bit hesitant because it seems like involves a lot to get started, that’s where iBlocks makes a difference. With iBlocks, teachers will realize that PBL is something they can start with in their classroom without having to worry about so many variables. It is important to take time to talk about PBL with students, find out what their interests are and then dive in together in a new learning experience. It may feel like a challenge, but that is okay because the benefits are great and it will spark curiosity and creativity in learning.

About the Author

Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She is the author of sevens books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World”, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” “Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction” and “Things I Wish [..] Knew.” All books are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at https://anchor.fm/rdene915

Rachelle is available for in-person and virtual PD sessions for your school.

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