You might be surprised to learn that there is a direct connection between preparing your students for Common Core and the PARCC exam and using project-based learning in your classroom. Project-based learning is a great tool to have in your teacher toolkit as you make plans and efforts to prepare your students for the deeper thinking and higher difficulty of the Common Core Standards.
The new standards aim to prepare students for college and career readiness. Project-based learning (PBL) is a great way to prepare students for Common Core because it emphasizes significant content and real-world outcomes.
Consider the following quote from David Ross, director of professional development for the Buck Institute for Education.
Everyone knows that content is king and Common Core wears the crown. Signiﬁcant content is one of our eight Essential Elements of PBL. Make an easy connection: Signiﬁcant Content=Common Core. Now let’s use a shorter word. When designing a rigorous, relevant, and engaging project, Common Core is the “what.” But what about the “how?” In our minds the answer is obvious: PBL is the solution for Common Core implementation. PBL is the “how.”
Of course, we realize that PBL is not the only way to help students master these new standards. As states move toward implementation of the Common Core, however, more and more schools and districts are focusing on PBL as their go-to instructional strategy to prepare students for deeper thinking. Next-generation assessments aligned to the new standards (still in development at this writing) are expected to emphasize application of knowledge rather than recall of facts. Here, too, we ﬁnd common ground with PBL, in which students demonstrate and share what they know or can do through performance assessments. For PBL veterans, student demonstrations of learning are not new at all. They’re an essential element of every project.
Common Core Standards for English Language Arts include tasks that are very familiar to people who know PBL:
“Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions”
“Prepare for and participate eﬀectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners”
“Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others”
“Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question)”
Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice also echo PBL best practices. The math standards set expectations for students to do real-world problem solving, use mathematical modeling, apply statistical analysis, and communicate their understanding. “Mathematically proﬁcient students can apply the mathematics they know Loading…to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace,” according to the Standards of Mathematical Practice. Such applications naturally have a place within high-quality projects that ask students to use mathematics concepts and procedures in authentic contexts. (Excerpted from the book PBL for 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity, published by the Buck Institute for Education, 2013)
In the Whiteriver School District, the Tech Ready Grant is currently developing STEM lesson plans for every grade-level that implement Common Core standards.
These units are structured around Science, but also include Math and ELA Common Core standards as well as digital PARCC-type questions in the units. The Science and Technology elements of the units are used to engage students as well as fulfill the need for informational text required by the ELA standards.
These units are being developed to give WUSD teachers access to PBL units aligned to their curriculum and resources without having to develop them from scratch. Teachers will be given complete access to the units so that once they are implemented they will be able to make changes, extensions, and additions to the STEM units.
You can access the units that are being developed here.
Use the following login to explore the units:
(Username: wusdteacher password: pass123)