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Rigorous PBL by Design

Rigorous PBL by Design
Three Shifts for Developing Confident and Competent Learners

March 2017 | 208 pages | Corwin

Thoughtful Design Guide for Maximum PBL Impact

When problem- and project-based learning (PBL) is designed and delivered effectively, it has the potential to create confident and competent learners. Educators must know how to thoughtfully design projects that move students from surface to deep and transfer learning.

Bridge the gap between expected PBL success and real-life classroom implementation by diving deep into the design for new and existing projects. Through in-depth examples, discover how to make three shifts essential to improving PBL’s overall effect:

  • Clarity: Students should be clear on what they are expected to learn, where they are in the process, and what next steps they need to take to get there
  • Challenge: Help students move from surface to deep and transfer learning
  • Culture: Empower them to use that knowledge to make a difference in their life and the lives of others

Be the key to help students discover, deepen, and apply their learning to a world beyond them.

“This is an outstanding resource for educators, providing a practical framework for creating effective and impactful PBL experiences. We are committed to strengthening our PBL practices and we look forward to adding this valuable resource to our professional reference library.”
Rachel Bergren, MSc, Director, Education and Guest Experience
The Marine Mammal Center

"Michael McDowells book provides powerful insights to ensure the conditions essential for PBL are present for increased impact on student learning. This magnificent book provides educators with practical ways to design authentic and 'ever-lasting' learning."
Sarah Martin, Principal
Stonefields School, New Zealand

Foreword by John Hattie
Chapter 1. Focusing on Confidence and Competence in Learning
Confident and Competent Students at Work: Sir Francis Drake High School

Confidence in Learning Attributes

Competence in Learning Levels: Surface, Deep, and Transfer

PBL as a Vehicle to Build Confidence and Competence in Learning

Chapter 2. Designing PBL for Student Confidence and Competence
Make PBL Effective

Advancing PBL by Design

Chapter 3. Design Shift I: Clarity—Understanding Expectations of Learning Upfront
Clear Expectations Motivate Learning

Where Am I Going in My Learning?

Steps for Determining Clear Learning Intentions and Success Criteria in Project Design

Chapter 4. Design Shift II: Challenge—Structuring and Sequencing Learning Through Projects
Designing for Challenge and Intervention

Step 1 (Plan A): Align Student Activities and Teaching Actions According to Surface, Deep, and Transfer Expectations

Step 2 (Plan B): Structure Inquiry to Identify Student Performance and Provide Support That Aligns With the Learning Needs of Students

Chapter 5. Design Shift III: Culture—Knowing and Acting on Impact Collectively
Developing a Culture of Confidence

Chapter 6. Reflections on PBL Practice
Working Together for Impact

Retooling PBL to Serve as a Vehicle for Confidence and Competence

Afterword by Suzie Boss
Appendix A. Project Design Template

Appendix B. Sample Projects

Appendix C. PBL Design Shift and Key Elements Checklist

Appendix D. Recommended Texts for PBL Implementation

Key features

Going Deeper With PBL Design includes:

  • In-depth examples of how to re-tool existing PBL projects for maximum impact on student learning
  • An appendix of additional examples to help teachers getting started with PBL
  • How to use PBL to address surface, deep, and transfer learning outcomes
  • How to use PBL to increase students' confidence in their learning
  • Questions to help teachers reflect on their lessons and classroom culture
  • Next steps and activity prompts to use in the classroom

For instructors

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