Author Archives: Michael Kaechele

The Marriage of SEL and PBL

Social Emotional Learning and Project Based Learning are two of the hottest trends in education right now. Their popularity is due to the pendulum swinging back from the previous obsession with standardization and assessment dictated by NCLB and RTTT to more holistic education. Yet neither SEL nor PBL should be seen as fads, but as necessary and permanent shifts in pedagogy.

SEL is constantly happening in every classroom but is often part of the hidden curriculum. Teachers need to make SEL visible and intentional. Many schools are implementing specific plans for SEL as a stand alone curriculum. But as Frey, Fisher, and Smith advocate in All learning is Social and Emotional,

“What’s needed, and what’s far less common, is for schools to amplify the principles SEL programs introduce to make them the fabric of the school itself. In order for SEL to have a lasting and sustained effect, it needs to be integrated into the academic mainstream rather than remain on the periphery.”

SEL should not be another thing added onto teachers’ plates, but rather is most effective when integrated into classroom culture and routines.

PBL experts have long advocated that students should be learning skills in the classroom simultaneously with content knowledge. There are many labels for these skills:

SEL is the best terminology and framework for the set of skills that PBL experts agree should be integrated into projects. The following table shows how CASEL’s SEL Competencies can be naturally embedded into High Quality PBL.

Self-Awareness

Self-Awareness is accurately perceiving who you are as a person and developing confidence based on your individual strengths. Many students lack a belief in their abilities or have skills that are not emphasized in traditional classrooms. Project Based Learning gives all students the opportunity to gain confidence by creating meaningful work.

PBL honors each student’s unique characteristics. Through voice and choice, students recognize and use their strengths in what products they create and how they demonstrate their learning. Students build confidence by choosing group roles based on their strengths. PBL is built upon a growth mindset. Students use design thinking protocols to plan solutions, creating a culture of failing forward through iterative stages. They learn that mistakes are not permanent, but part of the routines of working toward success.

Reflection throughout the project process helps students see their progress and personal growth. Public presentation of their work encourages students and creates a positive self-perception. Students learn to advocate for themselves in PBL by requesting workshops from the teacher when needed. Most importantly the PBL framework teaches students how to learn, so they develop the skills to pursue any topic that they are passionate about on their own.

Social Awareness

Social Awareness is considering others’ perspectives and having empathy for people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Today’s world has become polarized with people talking over each other, rather than listening and working towards compromise. High quality PBL forces students to consider multiple perspectives before working toward solutions.

Every teacher begins the year by establishing classroom norms. In PBL these norms are focused on respecting each other, even when we disagree and on how to function well in a group. Since students spend a majority of their day working together, they will consistently have different opinions. These are opportunities for them to learn how to navigate conflict peacefully. Each student’s voice should be heard and respected throughout the project.

Projects start with a Driving Question (DQ) to engage students and frame the anticipated learning. Students should be investigating multiple viewpoints before coming to any conclusions. Community members from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences should be embedded into the process. Students should see that complex problems in society do not have simplistic, one-sided answers.

A project on stewardship of the environment, for example, would consider not only the negative effects of industrial pollution and land development, but the positive effects of jobs and economic benefits created by businesses. Students would be challenged to hear all sides and balance the needs of everyone in their final solutions.

Responsible Decision Making

Responsible Decision Making is making positive choices based on ethics, safety, and norms. The SEL framework emphasizes student behavior in the classroom, whereas PBL applies it more globally to issues outside of themselves. But the skills are the same in each case, with PBL using Social Awareness to drive this decision making.

The Driving Question launches a project with a focus on an authentic problem. Students then generate a list of “Need to Know’s” (N2K’s) of information and skills necessary to generate a solution. From the N2K’s, students with the guidance of the teacher plan “Next Steps” of how they will conduct research into the problem. This whole process requires identifying and analyzing problems at a deep level.

Since PBL is student-driven, continuous inquiry is embedded as students evaluate both resources and the Driving Question at every stage. Students engage in feedback and revision protocols such as gallery walks and the tuning protocol as they evaluate each other’s work. This peer feedback leads to exemplary products in their final solutions to the Driving Question.

In PBL, students reflect on both the skills that they are learning and their behaviors in their groups. There are “teachable moments” to talk about ethical responsibility on a daily basis. Taking ethics to the next level, service projects give students the chance to make a positive impact in the community. PBL creates a strong connection for students between personal and civic responsibility in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Self Management

Self Management is regulating oneself to manage and achieve goals. Project management is a key skillset in PBL within which self management is practiced and attained. The teacher creates a climate for students to manage themselves with the norms and routines mentioned under Social Awareness. Students become self-motivated when they exercise their voice to direct their learning as they explore their passions in the N2K’s and Next Steps protocols.

The classroom should be a safe space for students to develop project management skills. In PBL, students organize their groups through contracts that define appropriate behavior and define work roles. They can use tools such as scrum boards and team calendars. Students should set goals as a team and learn to hold each other accountable for completion. Older students can use online tools such as Trello to organize and younger students can use posters or bulletin boards for the same purpose.

Students also learn self-management by choosing the appropriate scaffolding and tools that they need to complete their work. Teachers can give menus of options and students can choose what works for them. Finally, a key element of PBL is self assessment through reflection. Students can compare their work to rubric descriptions and exemplars. They should be reflecting on their content learning and the SEL skills that they are developing throughout the PBL process.

Relationship Skills

Relationship Skills are the ability to maintain healthy relationships with diverse people through communication and cooperation. Since PBL involves significant time spent working in groups, it is the perfect structure to develop Relationship Skills

Communication is one of the most fundamental skills developed in PBL. In traditional classrooms, students often sit passively listening most of the time. In PBL, not only are students constantly communicating in their groups, but they give professional presentations to their class and the community. Community experts are brought in and students collaborate with them to develop solutions to the DQ.

As mentioned previously, group contracts and student roles help students learn how to interact with each other in productive ways and invoke teamwork for successful completion of their goals. Feedback and revision protocols teach students to both give and accept peer feedback on their products. Reflection throughout the project on their group dynamics gives students opportunities to identify and solve relationship challenges.

Conclusion

SEL should not be another add-on program in schools. PBL is the perfect framework to teach SEL competencies seamlessly. This student-centered approach allows students to develop their skills in a safe environment under the reflective guidance of their teacher. SEL and PBL -the perfect marriage ’til death do they part.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

7 Methods to Make PBL Contagious

One of my favorite parts of leading Project Based Learning workshops is watching teachers transform from an attitude of fear or doubt about PBL, to confidence and excitement. Many administrators task their teachers to lead professional development about PBL when they return. Since the teachers are novices on the topic this request can feel frightening or overwhelming.

Other teachers attend PBL workshops with a only a few colleagues or by themselves. They are excited to share their learning with teachers and administration back at their school. Both groups frequently ask, “How can we effectively bring PBL back to the rest of our staff and/or administration at our school.”

The situations vary. The principal or teachers at their school may or may not be interested in PBL. Here are some suggestions to spread the PBL love to your colleagues and your administration, no matter what their current commitment to it is.

Protocols

Instead of giving a slide presentation summarizing what PBL is, run a protocol at a staff meeting or other PD. The best way for adults to learn is through experience, so try a Jigsaw of a PBL article or watch a project video followed by a Harkness Protocol. After experiencing the protocol, teachers can collaboratively plan out how to implement it in their classrooms. This will not only introduce teachers to aspects of PBL, but will build a school wide culture as different teachers are using the same protocols in their varied classrooms.

One middle school that I worked with, uses their late start days as an opportunity for student groups to come in early and run the Tuning Protocol. Students get helpful feedback on their projects. The school invites teachers and administrators from other schools in their district to visit and see what PBL looks like. They are spreading the PBL love throughout their school system.

Classroom Observations

Invite colleagues into your classroom to observe PBL “in the wild.” Seeing is believing! The best way to get others excited about PBL and to help them understand the shifts that it entails is for them to see it in action. Teachers could be part of an authentic audience for practice presentations, or they could be experts helping students in the middle of a project.

Don’t just invite teachers for the final presentation day. Schedule them to visit on a normal workday too. Observations are most effective when teachers have a list of specific things to look for. Hand them this rubric to record observations to discuss later in a PLC. Encourage teachers to ask students what they are doing and why. One effective way to organize classroom observations is to have your principal get a rotating sub for the day so different teachers can observe for an hour each.

Student Panel

At your next staff meeting organize a student panel to tell about their PBL experiences. Kids can describe their favorite projects, challenges, areas of growth, and how the PBL framework motivates them to do their best work. Practice with your students ahead of time, so they know what kind of questions they will be asked. Encourage your kids to be themselves and share honest stories about their PBL experiences.

Don’t just pick high achieving students either, but be sure to include a mixture of kids from various backgrounds. Students who have struggled in school academically or behaviorally in the past but are excited about PBL can provide strong evidence for other teachers to give it a try. In my experience, nothing “sells” PBL better than students sharing!

Stories

The most powerful way to spread PBL at your school is through stories. Stories are what make classroom observations and student panels so powerful. Experts tell us that logic and rational reasoning alone will not lead to change. People must feel an emotional need to make a change, and stories accomplish this!

Stories can come from your classroom or you can show examples of PBL from other schools. Another way to collect stories is to have your students record reflections during the project. Provide them with prompts about their content learning, engagement, and how their groups are functioning. These stories will not only document their personal successes, but are feedback for you to improve future projects.

The most powerful stories are ones that show growth in students, especially in areas of motivation. Many teachers have misconceptions about what PBL is, and stories help them see clearly how they could adopt it. The truth is, when most teachers learn how PBL actually works, they are affirmed by the aspects that they are already doing.

Advertise

Don’t just keep all of those stories in house. When students complete high quality work that is relevant to the school and the community, it’s time to brag. Call up your local journalists and TV stations and let them know about what your kids are accomplishing. Publish your project in the school or district newsletter. Public education gets enough negative publicity. It’s time for teachers to share amazing stories of the meaningful work that students are doing.

The other way to share is on social media. This can create strong connections with parents and the community. If you need to convince your administrator about PBL, advertising is effective too. When she sees positive press or gets excited calls from parents about your students’ projects, your principal will see the value of the PBL framework.

Pilot

This technique is specifically for teachers who don’t have administrative support to try PBL. Your principal may not be “against” PBL. But you may have common assessments that are not congruent with your project idea or you may have a reading or math block with scripted curriculum that must be followed lockstep. The magic word to navigate these kinds of obstacles is pilot. Tell your principal:

“I just attended an incredible workshop on Project Based Learning and I think that it is exactly the personalized approach that our students need. With your permission, I would like to pilot a project in class and see how students respond.”

The beauty of the word pilot is, it not only grants permission, but it assumes there will be some bumps along the road as you experiment with something new. If necessary, show administration research or better yet share success stories of PBL in other settings similar to your school. Chances are your principal supports the tenets of PBL already, but may not know how to get permission from her superior. “Pilot” creates the perfect scenario.

Workshops

Of course, once teachers and administration are getting excited about PBL and ready to dive in, there is no substitute for high quality professional development. Making the shift to student-centered PBL can be a frightening transition, especially for traditional teachers. A multiple day, PBL workshop lead by an experienced practitioner will give teachers both the skills and the confidence to launch a project in their classroom.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your school won’t make a dramatic transition to PBL overnight. Take small steps and don’t forget to continue the conversations about your victories and struggles in PLC’s. Seek out continued professional development throughout the journey. Remember it’s not about the product, but the process!

Questions? Interested in a PBL workshop or consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

Five Aspects of PBL Teachers as Coach

Note: I wrote this post last winter before Coach Beilein left for Cleveland. I decided to post as is, without changes, because Beilein is still the same amazing coach even though he broke our hearts when he left.

We have already destroyed the strawman myth that Project Based Learning classrooms are chaos with the teacher acting as a glorified babysitter. But I want to dig deeper into the teacher’s role as a coach in the PBL framework. What does it look like in the wild?

Think about coaches that you know in any sport. Does their job seem easy, slow-paced, or passive? Not if they are any good! Coaching is an active intercession with athletes built on personal relationships. Coaches spend hundreds of hours preparing and working with their teams, even though they are never on the court during the game. Coaches don’t play, but they change lives!

I would like to use one of my favorite coaches as an example for this post, John Beilein, head coach of the University of Michigan men’s basketball team. He is a renowned offensive innovator and teacher of young men. I have watched him grow in his craft the past 12 seasons at Michigan. Here are five key aspects to his coaching style that translate to PBL.

Skill Building

John Beilein starts every season by practicing basic skills. He begins with a focus on balance and how to stand when you pass and catch the basketball. He drills players on the proper use of their pivot foot and being aware of their body position at all times. Freshman players are always surprised by the attention to detail and the focus on drills that they haven’t done since middle school. Beilein knows the effort spent on the fundamentals will make all of the difference between wins and losses later. And his teams consistently lead the country in fewest turnovers due to his emphasis on the fundamentals. 

PBL teacher’s primary job is to develop students’ skills. We all know that information is free and ubiquitous on the internet, but the coach focuses on skills such as literacy, computation, and research. PBL coaches want deeper learning. It is not enough for a student to memorize an algorithm, instead they should understand how to problem solve and be able to transfer to new situations. PBL coaches teach students how to be self directed learners. 

Preparation

Coaches don’t just roll the balls out on the floor and say “Start practice.” Beilein spends countless hours watching film, studying offensive and defensive philosophies, and designing plays. He has numerous assistants who help, including a strength and conditioning coach that develops players’ bodies. Players are not all treated the same. Each one has a personalized workout and nutrition plan designed to help them grow where needed.

No teacher just shows up to school without a plan. In PBL, most of the planning is front loaded: designing the focus of the project, finding community partners, and choosing content standards to study and assess. PBL coaches also need to personalize their planning with scaffolding as students need it and differentiation based on skills, interests, and abilities. A well designed PBL project is like a master game plan against a rival opponent.

Continuous Growth

John Beilein doesn’t get 5 star recruits to come to Michigan. He gets many “under the radar” players that he develops into strong ball players over their time in his program. He also doesn’t have many “one and done” stars who only play for the one mandated season before leaving for the NBA. Freshman rarely play much in Beilein’s complicated system as there is a huge learning curve. All division 1 scholarship players were stars on their high school team so it can be a culture shock to have watch from the bench that first year.

But after time in the weight room and developing their skills, Beilein has a strong history of turning 3 and 4 stars into NBA draft picks. Players have to trust the process and learn the system before they see the court in gametime. They must learn to communicate and perform their role on the team.

PBL teachers are all about growth mindset with their students. Students don’t show up to class with highly developed SEL skills. The PBL teacher has students practicing skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking daily. PBL coaches intentionally teach, practice, and assess students’ project management skills such as handling resources, sticking to a timeline, and successful collaboration with their team. Much like Beilein’s players, students turn into strong leaders ready to tackle global issues when they graduate. 

Developing Confidence

One of the most important aspects of coaching young people is building their confidence. I love Beilein’s quote about shooting, “Better to go 0-8 than 0-2.” Beilein encourages aggressiveness and failing forward. He is a motivator and encourages risk taking (within the offense of course). 

Most young people are trying to figure out who they are as a person and have not yet found their voice. PBL teachers use relationships to build up their students’ confidence. They challenge kids with complex problems and then encourage them to persevere with solutions. PBL coaches don’t punish mistakes with low grades, but support risk taking and exploration. Many students discover skills, interests, and talents in the midst of projects that lead to careers and passions that they had not previously considered. 

Adaptive

John Beilein has always been considered an offensive genius whose teams were difficult to defend, but his teams were thought by some to be soft and weak on the defensive end. Then a few years ago Beilein hired a “defensive coordinator” and the past two seasons Michigan transformed into a top defensive team in the country! Even after decades of coaching, John Beilein demonstrated his ability to grow personally and adapt to the strengths of his players. 

A PBL teacher is continually growing professionally and learning new strategies to strengthen their classroom approach. PBL teachers are constantly learning new protocols and developing differentiated scaffolding. Students are different every year so you can’t just roll out the same exact projects. They need to be tweaked for this year’s students giving room for their voice and choice.

Conclusion

Active PBL teaching requires 100% of a person’s energy, even though they aren’t “playing” in the game. PBL coaching is definitely not a spectator sport. Teachers may not be in the front of the room lecturing in the traditional sense, but they are using personal relationships to develop students’ skills and confidence. High Quality PBL coaching leads to holistic student development that goes beyond test scores to impact the world.

For more ideas on coaching students in PBL, check out this post too!

When Society Fails Students

I recently visited an alternative education high school where I had taught for a year. The school uses PBL and students are genuinely loved and cared for. It was great seeing the staff and hearing success stories of former students. But unfortunately one horrible story sticks out in my mind.

Two of my former students are in prison to be tried for murder. One of them allegedly shot a kid in the face during a planned robbery of a drug deal. This student had some struggles at school, but I did not expect to hear about 2nd degree murder.

This caused me to reflect on some other former students who didn’t make it through high school. One made an online bomb threat to a former middle school that he previously attended, shutting down the school and terrifying that community. Another was arrested for armed robbery after breaking into a house with a gun. A third was shot in the lower body (but fully recovered), presumably in a drug transaction that went bad. All three of these boys never got in trouble at school.

You know what else all four of these boys had in common? They were strong academic students. They did their work and did not need much support to be successful in the classroom. Attendance was sometimes an issue for them, but when present they worked hard and did quality work.

These boys did not need better lesson plans, clearer learning targets written on the board, more engaging content, or any other “best practices” to be implemented in their classes. There are no magic teaching strategies that would have helped prevent their actions.

Instead they needed comprehensive counseling and mental health services, mentors, and effective community programs to help them and their families.

This is just a sampling of stories from my short stay at this school. There are rampant substance abuse problems and these students face pretty much every horrible challenge that you can imagine in their homes and communities.

You know what is not going to help these students “make it?” Better math and ELA instruction. This school uses PBL, focuses on SEL, and borrows practices from Restorative Justice and Mindfulness. All of these are wonderful education strategies, and help many students find success and graduate. But those who work in these settings know that none of it is ever enough to reach every student.

So I wake up early today, unable to sleep, in my comfortable, safe, middle class life. I wonder about the effects of second hand trauma on the staff who have dedicated YEARS to loving and serving a struggling community and its students. Little is done to support the adults in the building and look after their mental well-being.

Then I consider the politicians’ solutions to failing schools: start a charter, more accountability through standardization and mandatory testing, meanwhile cutting funds that schools are “wasting.” There is too much blaming of teachers who put their heart and soul on the line every day for kids.

The highest budget item for any district is paying the staff. Cutting school funding means cutting either staff pay and benefits or eliminating people. Often times the first people to go are the “support staff” including counselors and social workers. We can not solve complex problems by having less adults in schools for kids. Anyone who has worked in schools knows that smaller class sizes and more support is helpful for all schools, but is a necessity in low income, high trauma schools.

Schools can not fix all of society’s ills. The problems are systemic in society, not just in schools. Poverty in the form of unemployment and underemployment causes very real and traumatic issues for so many families. Schools can not be held responsible and culpable for every lack in children’s lives. Whole communities need to be restored.

We need comprehensive programs for these communities. These schools need more funding for mental health, counselors, and social workers. It would be impossible to have too many caring adults in our schools. We need mentorships for every child by community members. Teachers do not have the time or capacity to do this alone.

Will we ever get beyond the rhetoric of naming laws “No Child Left Behind” or “Every Student Succeeds Act” and actually fund adequate mental health and social care for students and work to end systemic poverty?

Wait, I Can Use Direct Instruction in PBL?

Project Based Learning is a student centered framework that encourages inquiry through research, problem solving, interviews, and exploration. It values student groups dialoguing together to construct their own meaning about important content questions. It is a natural fit for teaching methods such as discovery learning, simulations, design your own experiment, and vertical whiteboards. PBL encourages students to build on their background knowledge through experiences and exposure to new information.

But what about when there are important gaps between what students know and need to know to solve the problems embedded into the project? As teachers, we have an obligation to meet the required standards of our district and state and district. How can we be assured that all students learn the necessary content in PBL? Teachers do have a responsibility in PBL to constantly use formative assessments to make sure students are on track. And it is not “against the rules” to use direct instruction when needed!

Direct instruction gets a bad rap, but pretty much every teacher uses it. We know that lectures by themselves are one of the least effective learning strategies. We also know that all students will not “magically discover” important concepts without teacher direction and input. So how can PBL teachers effectively provide direct instruction? Here are a variety of effective methods that I have used. Most of these strategies assume a PBL framework with project work time happening for the class as a whole, while a subset of students are attending the workshop with the teacher or expert.

Stations

Stations are an elementary staple that are a natural fit with PBL. Student groups move in rotation to different spots in the room and complete various tasks. One station can be with the teacher, who leads a mini-lesson on a core concept. Benefits include movement, variety of tasks, and allowing the teacher to focus on a small group of students at once. Stations work great with literacy, reading, and mathematical concepts. Middle and high school teachers should try using stations too.

Role Based

If students are assigned roles during the project, consider a workshop for just one set of roles. Give the class project work time and then call out just the editors or the tech gurus from each group for specific instructions or resources. If you aren’t using specific roles, have each group choose one representative to attend the workshop and report back to the group. Role based workshops encourage collaboration as the groups depend on each other for information and resources.

5 Minute “Lecture”

Instead of having students come to your teacher station, go to them! Prepare a 5 minute mini-lesson based on a gap in student understanding or an unanswered “Need to Know.” Give students an extended block of work time. Work your way around the room checking in with each group’s progress. In a dialogue style “deliver” the mini lesson during a group conversation. Students will be focused, as you are only talking to their group and you can easily check for understanding. By the end of the hour, you have effectively met with each group and incognito taught your content.

Flip the Script

How many times have you given a lecture and then assigned a related practice activity, only to have half the class need help getting started? We have all been frustrated when students don’t pay attention to our whole class instruction. Instead try giving students the practice activity first, knowingly that most will not be able to do it. Allow five minutes of struggle and when the inevitable hands start popping up say, “Looks like we could use a workshop on this.” Then give the instruction that you traditionally gave first. Many students need to experience the struggle before they are ready to listen. Some students won’t need any help and they can continue on their own without you!

Mandatory

One of the weaknesses of whole class lectures is that they do not allow for differentiation. They tend to treat every student as needing the exact, same information. With PBL, it makes sense to use formative assessments to determine which students need specific help. Then the following day, mandatory workshops can be given for a subset of students who have misunderstandings, were absent, or just need more practice with the teacher. Many of the requirements for IEP’s or scaffolds for EL students can be given in this format (without labeling students) but also offered for general education students who need help too.

Voluntary

Voluntary workshops are some of the most powerful and effective ones. When students choose to come, instead of being forced, they tend to be focused. But when you offer a voluntary workshop, some students who need help won’t choose to come. Give the workshop without them. As soon as it is over, check in with those students. Tell them, “Looks like you are struggling with this. I just gave a workshop on it. You should have been there.” And then walk away and repeat with the rest of the students who needed the workshop but didn’t attend. Once you have made these rounds, announce to the class that you have decided to repeat the workshop and given the “teacher eye” to all of those students and make sure they attend. The goal is to teach students to advocate for themselves and to learn to seek help when they need it.

Just in Time

Another variation of Flipping the Script, is Just in Time instruction. It makes no pedagogical sense to teach students about something before they are ready to learn it or perform a task related to it. They won’t listen and you will end up reteaching it. An example of Just in TIme teaching would be how to do a works cited page. Give students the requirements and resources for how to properly do one, but not a lecture. Wait until after rough drafts are done and a few days before the paper is due. Project an exemplary works cited page and ask students to pull up theirs and compare. If their works cited page doesn’t look like it should then have them come to a workshop on how to do it.

Student Requested

Student Requested workshops are a subset of Voluntary ones. As part of the PBL process and culture, students should be able to request any workshop at anytime. Importantly, the teacher does not need to lead them immediately. Oftentimes the teacher will tell students that the workshop will happen tomorrow based on scheduling and realistically to give time to prepare for meaningful learning. Student Requested workshops are excellent indicators that students are engaged in deeper learning.

Student Led

Teachers are not the only ones who can lead workshops. Outside experts can be a great resource, especially in areas that the teacher may not know details about. Student Led workshops are powerful because they empower student leaders as they teach their classmates. One area that I always use Student Led workshops with is technology. At the high school level, I don’t teach how to use tech tools, but expect students to figure it out by themselves. Every class has some technology nerds, and I designate them the experts to help classmates.

Whole Class

A pattern of the previous formats is that they are all smaller workshops, not with your whole class. Smaller workshops are more powerful because they are focused and personalized. A whole class workshop with the traditional lecture is a format that for the most part, I try to avoid. Instead use whole class instruction as a starting point to go over the expectations and agenda for the day or as an ending point to reflect and summarize the learning of the day. I rarely “deliver content” in a whole class style of lecture with note taking. When I do, I record it so students can watch it later at their own pace.

Protocols

While I avoid whole class lectures, I do have whole class activities such as watching videos, reading articles, and class discussions. Rather than a lecture, where the teacher is the source of knowledge, try using a variety of sources to expose students to relevant content. Then structure conversations using protocols to promote equity. Some favorite protocols include Socratic Seminars, Fishbowls, Say Something, Spider Web, Speed Dating, and Chalk Talk. Protocols keep students at the center of the learning, encouraging participation and reflection on their learning.

Conclusion

Don’t let boring lectures dominate your class. Don’t fall for the PBL teacher as babysitter myth that students are 100% on their own either. Teachers should be providing instruction to students throughout the PBL process as needed. The key is accurate formative assessment of where each student is at, so that appropriate support can be provided in the right way at the right time.