Top 7 PBL News Stories

May 17 – 20, 2016


Each Friday we post a list of our favorite articles, blog posts, and other resources we’ve run across that relate to Project Based Learning.

Here’s what we liked this week:

Obama wants to hear what children have to say about science education
Washington Post
Acting on a suggestion the President heard from a nine year old at the White House Science Fair, the White House created a Web page to allow children to share their thoughts and views on science, technology, engineering and math education. The student, who showed Obama his 3D printer project, advocated “hands-on science” – let’s hear it for PBL, kids!

To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions
New York Times
Neuroscientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, once taught 7th grade science. She noticed then, and later confirmed with brain research, something we know about PBL: students learn better when they care about something of personal relevance. Her new book is Emotions, Learning, and the Brain.

Girls Outperform Boys on First NAEP Technology, Engineering Test
Education Week
In addition to the headline’s against-conventional-wisdom finding, the test showed a big gap among racial and ethnic groups and between suburban and urban students. The test, taken by 8th graders, features “scenario-based tasks” – which students taught with PBL are well-prepared for. (A point noted in our hangout about the performance tasks for the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests. New Hampshire is also piloting such a test). Examples of tasks: create a museum exhibit about a drought, plan safe bike lanes in a city, and design an ideal iguana habitat for a zoo.

Exploring the effects of project-based learning in secondary mathematics education
The Journal of Educational Research
In this study, high school algebra and geometry students taught with PBL “were more intrinsically motivated, showed significantly higher critical thinking skills, and appreciated peer learning” compared to peers taught with traditional instruction. And a big finding about equity: “at-risk and minority students benefited greatly from PBL.”

Maplewood High School works with drones to change the way outsiders see students
Nashville Scene
In the Academy of Energy and Power at Maplewood, students used drones to create art in one project, and in another to help the Nashville Electric Service company monitor power lines. Ryan Jackson, the Assistant Principal who oversees the Academy at this school in East Nashville, Tennessee where 86% of the students get free or reduced lunch, sees PBL as a tool for equity. He wants to “shatter all negative assumptions about what they are capable of accomplishing.” (Note: Metro Nashville is a BIE partner district.)

4 Ways Furnishings Can Enhance the 21st Century Classroom
T.H.E. Journal
To create a “21st century classroom” that uses technology and puts an emphasis on collaboration and communication, this post makes the case for classroom furniture that is mobile and device-friendly, and allows “quick transitions between individual, small group and large group activities.” I like the story of an English teacher at Saluda Trail Middle School in Rock Hill, South Carolina who uses such furniture to facilitate PBL.

5 Strategies for Teaching Project-Based Learning
Practical advice for teachers of history who wonder how to motivate students in an often-boring (to students) subject. Good examples of projects: design a monument about a historic event; learn about the Great Depression while interviewing homeless people today and helping the community; debate solutions to a problem faced by people in the past, such as industrialization or the Cuban Missile Crisis.


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