Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
What is self-directed project-based learning anyway?
I facilitate a women's studies seminar every year, and as a seminar finale, students design and lead their own project-based learning experiences around a subtopic of their choice.
One year a student chose to do her project on domestic violence. She connected with the Sojourner Project, a domestic violence shelter in the Twin Cities. An educator from there came into the school to speak with her. This student also contacted a self-defense instructor to come into the school to teach her and her classmates self-defense strategies.
This student assembled all of the information that she gathered into a presentation and created a brochure that included signs of domestic abuse, community resources for survivors, tips for friends and family of abuse survivors and more. She placed brochures around the community from health clinics to bus stops to school counseling offices.
This student didn't gather statistics and info from a few websites online, copy and paste them into a Powerpoint presentation and regurgitate the information from her slideshow to her classmates. She collaborated with the community, reached out to experts in the field, made an impact, and shared her knowledge and insight with a relevant audience. That is self-directed project-based learning. She had choice in every aspect of the experience.
What is project-based learning?
My experience and philosophy of teaching are largely based around project-based learning (PBL). I have been a high school project-based educator for 13 years. There are a few misconceptions around project-based learning that I hope to clarify in this post, one being that PBL is the same as a project.
In short, project-based learning involves sustained inquiry, is innovative, relevant, and authentic. Students gather information on a topic or problem through questioning, learning activities, and community collaboration. They share their new skills and knowledge beyond classroom walls in such a way that impacts the local and/or global community.
What is PBL specifically?
What is self-directed project-based learning?
The level of self-direction varies among educators. ALL project-based learning experiences in my classroom are student-directed - designed and led by students. There are many opportunities in PBL to give students choice and autonomy. That's why I love it!
Self-Directed PBL Experience Planning:
A great way to get started with self-directed project-based learning is with my tool kit. This provides ALL of the guiding materials for ANY self-directed project-based learning experience. Students use the templates included to design and carry out PBL experiences on any topic, one assigned by you or one chosen by your students.
But what does a self-directed PBL experience look like when in action, especially with 25 students in your class? I use the PBL tool kit and plan my experience using a planner specifically designed for coordinating self-directed PBL. Over the next few weeks I will be going over what this experience looks like in steps using my free digital, interactive calendar to walk you through it.
Then, if you're looking for something more comprehensive, check out the full project-based learning calendar and planner here. It was intentionally created to guide you seamlessly and effortlessly through coordinating self-directed PBL in your classroom or home learning environment.
If this post has hooked you, continue following this blog series on how to execute self-directed project-based learning. I've covered the philosophy. Now it's time for details and tangible, actionable steps. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you next week, planner in hand!
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Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.