The PBL symposium was designed with heavy input from district teachers, who had expressed an interest in learning more about this type of instruction. Project Based Learning is different than simply doing project work as part of a unit or as a culminating activity. True PBL occurs when the learning is designed around the project, with the project introduced at the beginning, its success dependent on the aquisition of the specific skills and knowledge outcomes that the course demands. "In PBL, the project is not", as the trainers from Buck were prone to reminding us, "the dessert in the unit. It needs to be the main course."
According to our conversations with teachers and the feedback forms they completed, the learning sessions were very well received. Aside from the timely nature of the subject matter and overall educational merit to the concepts, there were some other qualities the sessions had going for them that we would be wise to duplicate whenever possible, both in our adult learning sessions and in our classrooms. These included:
- engaging instructors with a high level of expertise
- a highly collaborative learning environment with plenty of feedback
- ongoing learning geared to the learners' needs and interests
- learners exiting the session armed with resources they were able to use
- and, certainly not to be overlooked, very high quality lunches
After 100+ years of the factory model in education, we have incrementally refined our work using this outdated concept to the point where we are now doing a mediocre thing pretty darn well. It is exciting to finally see that, after talking about it for many, many years, we may finally be on the verge of taking some bolder steps towards larger and more significant modifications to the system. If teachers and students can do that well with something that spends as much time getting in the way of learning as it does supporting it, imagine what can happen when we are able to design a structure that always puts learning and learners first.
More photos from the SD48 Learning Symposium