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Conversations that Clarify PBL

I had the privilege of working with five different groups of educators on PBL this past summer. There were conversations in each of the trainings that I cherished. One of those conversation occurred with our elementary teachers.

As small groups were brainstorming their PBL topic, I heard a conversation about focusing on counting money. As the conversation progressed, several key questions came up.

How do you convert a theme to PBL?

The teachers started their conversation by choosing a standard that needed time and depth, and couldn't be learned through a one or two day lesson. Then a few of them started talking about learning activities they could do, while others were grappling with converting it into a complex and open-ended driving question.


These conversations helped them realize learning activities were fabulous differentiated instructional activities, but those activities did not make it PBL on its own.

What made it PBL?

PBL was a meaningful challenge that connected to the real world. It was relevant to the students, with a real community who would benefit from the solution.

The Driving Question or Essential Question framed the PBL with purpose and focus. It required Bloom's higher level thinking, and simply couldn't be Googled because there was more than one solution. It would culminate with a presentation and reflection.

Final Thoughts

When we discussed the Driving Question or Essential Question, the teachers became comfortable with their PBL and how to incorporate some of those learning activities in it. (My next post will expand on creating those questions.)
  • How does this post help clarify that PBL is much more than a learning activity?
  • What do you want to add to this conversation?
  • What questions do you still have?
I want to thank the educators who were involved in these awesome conversations. I also am thankful for BIE's Toolkit Series. The conversation in this post was ongoing throughout our training, and the starting point for their Driving Question came from PBL in the Elementary Grades.


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