The same certainly holds true for students. The best learning happens when they are doing – when they are actively engaged. That is why our teachers are being trained to become proficient in creating project-based learning opportunities for their students. This year, our 5-8th grade teachers are working with a coach from the Buck Institute for Education, which is known as the “gold standard” for training educators in PBL – Project Based Learning.
In Project Based Learning, students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. It requires students to research, collaborate, decide on the value of information and evidence, accept feedback, design solutions, and present findings to an audience. This process creates the conditions under which high performance and mastery are most likely to emerge.
Key elements of PBL are skill and knowledge-based competencies, answering a challenging question or problem, sustained inquiry, student voice and choice, relevance and authenticity, self-reflections, critique and revision, and a public product.
PBL is an engaging, effective and enjoyable way for students to learn. Students develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and life. PBL integrates the skills students need with content knowledge. Teachers (and students) design the learning experiences with stop points to insure they are learning the requisite skills and content. PBL also promotes creative and critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Teachers report that our students are more highly engaged in their projects, and they are observing and documenting that real learning is taking place.
Both Judaic and General Studies teachers are implementing PBL with their students. Each teacher is required to design and provide at least one PBL opportunity this year. The Buck Institute coach, and Joan Freedman, our Director of Curriculum, are available to assist our teachers.
I’d like to share with you a great example of a PBL project. It is authentic, has real-life implications, and was created for a public audience. One of our 8th grade math classes was engaged in a project applying skills in exponential growth. The students had to research and figure out how monies saved in a retirement fund compounded and grew exponentially. Coincidentally, Hillel was changing its 403B program, and last week the staff met with the representatives of the new company that will be managing their 403B accounts. The 8th grade class was charged with creating a video to remind the staff of the impact of saving in a 403B. Here is the video that students in Mrs. Bortnick’s and Mrs. Tkac’s class created. As is evident, many skills were required in order to produce this well-done film.