About the Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning category

After watching the Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning video, respond to the following questions by creating a new topic in this category. These questions are here to help you think about the possibilities of PBL in your classroom:

  • What real world problems do you see in your classes? Your discipline? What might students create in response to those problems?

  • What roles would students need to take on to address or further explore those real world issues? How do “adults in the real world” divide up this labor?

  • What types of assessments do you see emerging naturally as students create and iterate on a project?"

After adding your thoughts to the discussion, read what your fellow teachers have written and comment on two responses.

In the ELA class, real world problems I have seen presented to students are ideas like the long term issues with colonization, various persuasive method needed to sell a point, or finding yourself and your motto in the world. In my discipline, it expands out to other ideas behind our novels and such. Students can find self-discovery and issues with equality and racism. Students can create papers, presentations, or speeches/podcasts in response to this.
Roles students need to take are ones of researchers and coordinators, a leader of sorts, and organizers. This is similar to adults since many of these roles is what we do when we are working on large projects collaboratively. Most fall into these roles naturally because of various strengths.
Some assessments are quick check ins with them to see if they understand the concept, conferencing works well with projects, and perhaps some quick questions to see if they understand where we should be in the process.

Real world problems that my students face have to do with inequity in its many different facets. My students experience prejudice due to their race, gender, and sexual orientation inside and outside of school. Many of my students also struggle with poverty, food insecurity, and even some with homelessness.

Being 8th graders they are also just beginning to form solid understandings and opinions on how the world works and their place in it. They notice these things and they really care! They have ideas on how the world should be vs. how it is.

I think as a teacher it is important for me to validate their lived experiences and give them access to knowledge that can help them understand the world further. In 8th grade we study a lot of how the American government was created and how it functions. Students get to play through simulations on the branches of government and see how the system works. They also do research into issues that they are passionate about and see how they could make change for those issues.

I love to have students actually apply those changes. For example in our informational essay unit, they do extensive research on a a social justice issue they are personally passionate about and write an essay explaining that topic and why it’s important. As a final assessment piece they have to apply the research they did to identify one actionable piece that they can accomplish. They have complete control over what this is. I have had students create government petitions, create awareness posters, or make fundraisers for their cause.

I feel very fortunate to teach language arts and debate. As we focus heavily in tenth grade (and in debate) on research skills and information literacy, I feel very fortunate that I can pretty directly connect the processes we are undertaking in class to real world issues. Students are bombarded with a wide array of information daily and they are tasked with determining its validity; I hope that I can be a small part in helping to separate fact and fiction.

Unfortunately, I feel that adults in the “real world” often struggle with the very issues we address throughout the school year. As cliched as it is in 2022, misinformation/disinformation/falsehoods abound in nearly all media people consume. Often this information is repeated consistently and without further inquiry. The process to check for validity and bias is a challenge as it takes multiple steps and an understanding of the broader information landscape. What is a “valid” source? According to whom?

Students are tasked with being both researchers and fact checkers — readers, writers, and presenters. These roles are fluid depending on individual context. From this process, a variety of assessments are possible. Students can present material to their peers in small groups or whole class; students can write about their findings; students can create multimedia (podcasts, videos, cartoons, etc.).