Process Post and Resources: Contemplating 21st C Ed, PBL, and Common Core State Standards – a Thought Board in Progress

[Disclaimer: This post may not make any sense to anyone but me. I am researching 21st C education trends, project-based learning, social and civic responsibility, school transformation, and Common Core State Standards. All through the lens of strategic re-design of school of the future. What follows below is some of the thought-board I am developing, and I felt compelled to share at least some of what I am discovering and thinking about…]

Today, during a Skype conversation with a trusted and highly respected educational colleague, I heard a couple of interesting threads of commentary that have led me on a fascinating research exploration for much of the day.

One of the folks here says PBL is dead. I don’t agree, but there is some strong movement against it.

We call him Pele because he knows where the ball is going, and the ball is currently going to the Common Core State Standards.

You breathe rarified air, and there are tremendous hurdles to implementing PBL in an environment overrun with standardized testing and the Common Core.

While I think that significant, meaningful PBL (capital P) has been largely non-existent in the heavily industrial-age influenced school system of the 20th century, I think PBL has thrived as a human learning paradigm for millennia, and I think PBL is alive and well as a learning methodology. In fact, I think PBL dominates learning before formal schooling, and I believe that PBL dominates the workplace of almost all jobs (if not, ALL jobs). I believe that school transformation and enhancement will necessarily include and integrate PBL. Furthermore, I think the Common Core State Standards not only support PBL, but I believe they demand it! [And I continue to mean capital-P PBL!]

Exploring Edutopia’s Resources for Understanding the Common Core State Standards, I worked on a thought board, and I am capturing a few bits and pieces here…

Intriguing videos from Hunt Institute YouTube channel regarding the CCSS:

  • The English Language Arts Standards: Key Changes and their Evidence

    At the end of the video, David Coleman speaks of “reading like a detective and writing like an investigative journalist.” From my own studying and implementation of capital-P project-based learning, I can think of few other methodologies that create the space and opportunity for student learners to be detectives and investigative journalists who are wrestling with real-life issues that need addressing and innovating.

  • Literary Non-Fiction in the Classroom: Opening New Worlds for Students

    Watching this piece was fascinating! I was both inspired and frightened stiff. On the frightening end, I pictured teachers who take David Coleman’s analysis literally as the recommended pedagogy for deconstructing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birmingham letter and removing many possibilities for self-motivated discovery and heart-touching. At the inspiring end, I was moved by MLK’s language and by thinking about a group of students searching for this letter after engaging with a community issue about fairness, justice, equality, and rights. I imagined this letter as a digestible resource for students who created a need-to-know about the letter because of the context with which they approached the letter. [Interestingly, I never experienced this letter as part of my formal, school-based education. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that this video viewing may have been the first time I read the entire letter. The content reminded me of many of the reasons that I am working for school reform and transformational enhancement.]

Quotes from the CCSS website that point to PBL:

Research—both short, focused projects (such as those commonly required in the workplace) and longer term in depth research —is emphasized throughout the standards but most prominently in the writing strand since a written analysis and presentation of findings is so often critical.
– Writing: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/key-points-in-english-language-arts

An important focus of the speaking and listening standards is academic discussion in one-on-one, small-group, and whole-class settings. Formal presentations are one important way such talk occurs, but so is the more informal discussion that takes place as students collaborate to answer questions, build understanding, and solve problems.
– Speaking and Listening: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/key-points-in-english-language-arts

The standards help prepare students for real life experience at college and in 21st century careers.
– Language: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/key-points-in-english-language-arts

The standards stress not only procedural skill but also conceptual understanding, to make sure students are learning and absorbing the critical information they need to succeed at higher levels – rather than the current practices by which many students learn enough to get by on the next test, but forget it shortly thereafter, only to review again the following year.
– Math: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/key-points-in-mathematics

  • The high school standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason mathematically.
  • The high school standards set a rigorous definition of college and career readiness, by helping students develop a depth of understanding and ability to apply mathematics to novel situations, as college students and employees regularly do.
  • The high school standards emphasize mathematical modeling, the use of mathematics and statistics to analyze empirical situations, understand them better, and improve decisions. For example, the draft standards state: “Modeling links classroom mathematics and statistics to everyday life, work, and decision-making. It is the process of choosing and using appropriate mathematics and statistics to analyze empirical situations, to understand them better, and to improve decisions. Quantities and their relationships in physical, economic, public policy, social and everyday situations can be modeled using mathematical and statistical methods. When making mathematical models, technology is valuable for varying assumptions, exploring consequences, and comparing predictions with data.”
    – Math: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/key-points-in-mathematics

Literacy equals mastery across academic disciplines.
– Callout in Hunt Institute video about CCSS

At the intersection and confluence of 21st century education and project-based learning, we would have:

  1. Personal learning, as explained by @MaryAnnReilly
  2. Education Systems that Support Innovation, as questioned by @FusionJones (Aran Levasseur)
  3. Greater understanding of What does it mean to be learned?, by David Warlick
  4. Commitment to Helping Students Become Active Citizens, by Margaret Haviland
  5. Schools that play matchmaker between world issues and adolescent energy, by Bo Adams
  6. Educators designing high-quality PBL to engage students with learning innovation, by Thom Markham
  7. Lessons from Lehrer’s Imagine for Cultivating Student Creativity, by Jonathan E. Martin
  8. Design thinking and iterative prototyping built into the program [see MVPS, Nuevo School, Beaver Country Day School & NuVu, etc.]
  9. Purposeful presentations over PowerPoint(less) ones, by Jeff Delp
  10. Value the Immeasurable, by Will Richardson

Videos that have profoundly shaped my viewpoint on 21st Century Education and the Future of Schools…Schools of the Future:

It’s all connected! And there’s so much more! It’s about learning.

11 thoughts on “Process Post and Resources: Contemplating 21st C Ed, PBL, and Common Core State Standards – a Thought Board in Progress

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  9. Great stuff Bo, and so important.
    I’d add a couple of pieces for you and your readers.

    1. David Ross at Buck Institute wrote this: Common Core is the What, PBL is the How. http://biepbl.blogspot.com/2012/05/common-core-is-what-pbl-is-how.html

    2. Second, and David’s piece also cites this, the people who do CWRA, CAE, have been engaged, as have many others, by Smarter Balanced to prepare performance task assessments in the same vein as as the CWRA to assess student master of the common core. Now, admittedly Performance Task Assessment is not the same as PBL– indeed they have some important differences– but it is clear to me that they can strongly support each other, and student learning by PBL will prepare them well for these forthcoming PTA testing. http://www.smarterbalanced.org/news/smarter-balanced-awards-pilot-item-and-performance-task-development-contract-to-ctbmcgraw-hill/

    • Thanks, Jonathan. Your additions are excellent and much appreciated. I love the David Ross piece, and the title is extraordinary!

      I agree with you about the natural alignment of PBL and PBA/PTA.

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