Reflections on PBL Coaching (Part 1)

Today in the middle school, Jill Ackers-Clayton came on campus to work with two teachers and two entire grade level teams as part of our yearlong focus on project-based learning. Jill has been Skyping with a few members of our team this year, and it was so powerful to spend time with her in person. Today helped to deepen the relationships between Jill and our teachers, as well as the relationships among teammates. It’s critical that these relationships are strong, because designing and implementing PBL (as well as coaching teachers in their design and implementation) can sometimes be messy or stressful. Navigating these waters with trusted teammates leads to an improved experience for all learners involved.

I’ll recap today’s learning experience in 3 separate posts:

  1. Two individual teachers
  2. Grade level team #1
  3. Grade level team #2

Takeaways from Two Individual Teachers

I was so impressed with both teachers who met with Jill this morning. Both came to the table with great ideas for a project, and both welcomed Jill’s feedback with eager optimism and a growth mindset. My biggest takeaways:

  • Aim to write the driving question at the “create” level of Bloom’s taxonomy. This allows us to truly hone in on the “why” of the project. That said, it’s incredibly helpful to also write questions for each of the other levels of Bloom’s. Doing so allows us to scaffold and differentiate for students who might need help understanding or reaching the creation level. 

  • It’s ok to run a project at the same time as “running content” aka utilizing direct instruction. One teacher expressed difficulty reconciling student voice & choice with the specific scope/sequence of required learning outcomes in her math curriculum. Jill suggested taking the approach of dividing the class in two, having half of them working on the project and the other half involved in direct instruction or mini-lessons with the teacher. The groups could flip in the middle of class.
  • The possibilities for connecting with the community are endless. Jill shared examples of students counting and mapping elk migrations in Colorado, and butterfly migrations in Texas. Golf courses partner with the Audobon Society, and students can plug in to map bird species and movement patterns. Police departments might give a school closed cases, with all the important information redacted, for students to solve using math or science.

One thought on “Reflections on PBL Coaching (Part 1)

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  1. Very good summary of insights gained from Jill; I found the time very helpful and the team continues to work through the issues on city planning. Thanks for helping us get this time with her.

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