Project Based Learning iLEAD Schools

How To Create, Foster And Advance A Culture That Supports PBL And Deeper Learning

Author: | Category: Making Magic

Meet the Maker

Michael Niehoff, Maker Team Advisor / Content Creator

Who are your favorite musical artists?
The Replacements, The Who, The Alarm, Bad Religion, Rancid, NOFX

What makes you smile?
Kids, Dogs

Who Is Your Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?

This Week’s Why?
Project-Based Learning in an instructional model aimed at producing many learning outcomes. Done well, it is an approach to a deeper learning experience that improves and enhances a learner’s skills (both academic and SEL), agency and more authentic connections to career, community and lifelong learning. And although PBL is a distinct instructional approach – complete with pedagogy, protocols and proficiencies – it is not truly possible without an accompanying culture in the classroom. Not only does PBL transform the learning experience for learners, but it transforms the teaching experience for facilitators. It’s more coaching, consulting, collaborating, questioning, including, designing and creating. This cannot be done well without a culture that supports it. Yes, it’s a mindset. But there are ways to design our classroom culture in order to allow PBL to survive and thrive. We can learn about pedagogy all day. But one won’t be a true PBL facilitator, classroom, school or organization without the accompanying culture.

This Week’s Focus

Driving Question

How Can We Create, Foster and Advance A PBL Culture?

More and more, we are learning that how we create and nurture a learning environment is more important than ever imagined. Beyond the tools, resources, models, assessments and technology, there is something that makes the most difference. It’s the way a classroom operates and feels that allows PBL to truly transform learning. Some might say this is the ‘art’ of teaching. And although much of this is mindset and attitude, there are things we can all learn and do to help model and further the culture necessary for authentic project-based learning. The goal is twofold: (1) To demonstrate the vital importance of establishing a PBL culture and (2) understand there are tools, techniques and resources available in order for facilitators and leaders to create, foster and advance a PBL culture.

iLEAD Schools and the Maker Learning Network have introduced IDEAL (iLEAD Design Element Alignment Lens) that has established PBL Look Fors. These include PBL Environment, Project Depth/Intellectual Challenge, Authenticity, Assessment, Project Design, Process and Project, Reflection and Culture. Here is a look at the IDEAL PBL Culture Look Fors which includes the following:

  • Classroom culture values high-quality “beautiful”work and is intentionally built through tools, practices and routines.
  • Culture of inquiry where learners understand there is no single “right answer” and see the importance of asking questions and digging deep for their own answers.
  • Culture of independence where learners are self-directed under the guidance of the facilitator (creative chaos.)
  • Learners have an appropriate degree of autonomy, given their age and experience, whether working alone or in teams.
  • Facilitator provides equitable opportunities for varied and scaffolded learning activities like whole-group instruction, listening to a (brief) lecture, engaging in peer critique protocols, or gathering in small groups for workshops and literature circles.
  • Facilitator creates a positive and safe environment where learners can make and learn from mistakes.


Being Makers

Being Makers

Being Makers is a team of change-making leaders from Maker Learning Network and iLEAD Schools focused on project-based learning and social-emotional growth.
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