How Do Our Learning Beliefs and Project Based Learning Intersect?

As mentioned in my previous post on how to promote student agency…in my school district we adopted the five learning beliefs from Education Reimagined to help drive our district vision: competency-based; personalized, relevant & contextualized; learner agency; socially embedded; open-walled.

This year, one of the main ways in which we are tackling these learning beliefs is through are innovation initiative, #YourSalisbury (formerly, Innovate Salisbury). The #YourSalisbury team consists of 15 teachers (3–4 from each of our four schools) and all of the district’s administrators. Throughout the year we meet for three all-day whole group sessions. After each of the first two, each school’s team follows up with their own full day of learning and planning at the building level. This entire initiative/framework was originally conceived of by my Superintendent, Randy Ziegenfuss, and Assistant Superintendent, Lynn Fuini-Hetten, and this is our third year of implementation.

About a week ago we held our first all-day session. In the afternoon I facilitated a one-hour activity with the goal of having participants uncover the various ways in which project based learning (PBL) provides us with a more concrete approach to realizing the learning beliefs in our learning spaces. In other words, PBL is our means; the learning beliefs are our end.

Here’s the activity, verbatim (and a printable version can be found here).

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1. In groups, read through Resource #1 to better familiarize yourself with our Learning Beliefs.
 2. In groups, towards the middle of your chart paper, create the beginning of a mind map by starting with the Learning Beliefs towards the center. (see below)

3. Read through Resource #2 while expanding upon your mind map by making connections between project based learning and the Learning Beliefs. These connections can be based on your questions, thoughts, experiences, etc. Challenge yourself to incorporate, in one way or another, all seven essential project design elements! (see below for an example of how to get started) (If you finish early, read through Resource #3.)

4. Gallery Walk: After everyone is done with their map, take time to look at and consider everyone’s work.
 5. Presentations: One at a time, each group presents their map, highlighting key points and prompting discussion.

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And, here are the results.

I look forward to continuing the work to make project based learning more prevalent in our school district!

How can PBL become systemic?

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Originally published at on September 27, 2017.