Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Planning for Success

To be successful in carrying out this plan I will need resources that will help me guide teachers in producing PBL mini-units. I found an article “Scaffolding Teachers’ Efforts to Implement Problem-Based Learning” by Ertmer & Simons (2005/2006) that not only gave me insight into what kinds of support teachers might need, but also resources to access that could give me more information in the Bibliography. I have decided that I will come up with actual scaffolds to help teachers plan PBL lessons. Because it is such a huge task and there is so much information available to sift through, I think giving teachers success in planning and carrying out a PBL mini-unit will provide the impetus necessary for further work.  I will also provide an Edmodo group that will have links to articles, online resources and documents for teachers who want to look more deeply into PBL.

The scaffolds I plan to start with are based directly on information from Ertmer and Simons’ (2005/2006) article. They are: essential (driving) questions (p. 5), locating/gathering resources (p. 6), creating student ownership of the problem (p. 7), creating a collaborative classroom culture (p. 8), and assessment methods (p. 10). I also want to give a short overview for teacher of what PBL is, why it is valuable for student learning and how it might look in a classroom. Resources I have found that will do this include this web page, What is Project Based Learning (Stanfill, n.d.), this video Project Based Learning: Explained (Common Craft, 2010) and this guide Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide (Edutopia, 2007). I may distill the information even further to give teachers a clear but concise introduction to PBL. I have found that teachers I have talked to believe that doing projects is the same as project-based learning.

To give an idea of how I plan to scaffold teacher implementation of PBL I will start with designing a worksheet for essential questions. One of the resources listed in the bibliography of the Ertmer and Simons article (2005/2006) provided a list of examples and non-examples of essential questions (Quebec English School Network RÉCIT , 2005). I will use some of those in the initial scaffold for designing questions. Information in Developing the Questions for Project-Based Learning (Kolk, 2011) includes an exercise to determine the enduring understanding behind topics from a curriculum and a quick description of what an essential question is. There are also links at the bottom of the article to Wallingford Public Schools Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions for Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies which provide great examples.
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I believe to make this plan a success I have to make PBL as accessible as possible. Providing resources to help develop each part of the plan, samples of exemplary components and explanations to give an overview of the whole process are essential to making it accessible. It is a complex process and requires a great deal of adjustment to teaching style, planning and expectations of students.


Common Craft. (2010, December 9). Project Based Learning: Explained. Retrieved from YouTube:

Edutopia. (2007, October 19). Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide. Retrieved from Edutopia:

Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2005/2006). Scaffolding Teachers' Efforts to Implement Problem Based Learning. International Journal of Learning, 319-328. Retrieved from Peg Ertmer's Virtual Home:

Kolk, M. (2011, July 18). Developing the questions for project-based learning. Retrieved from Tech4Learning Blog:

Quebec English School Network RÉCIT . (2005). QEP and ICT: Making the Connection Through Project-Based Learning. Retrieved from LEARN Quebec:

Stanfill, J. (n.d.). Personal Webpage, California State University, Sacramento. Retrieved from What is Project-Based Learning (PBL)?:


  1. Mary,
    I made a long post on Friday and I do not see it. I did not save it in another file. Let me know.

    1. Tami,
      Here is the post from my email. I wonder why it didn't post.. I was able to copy it for you though.

      I am including a few ideas that you can include in your Problem-based toolbox.
      This is an excellent questioning tool kit. I had to work at helping the students to come up with good essential questions. Jamie McKenzie had some great examples.
      A Questioning Toolkit
      Each district should create a Questioning Toolkit which contains several dozen kinds of questions and questioning tools. This Questioning Toolkit should be printed in large type on posters which reside on classroom walls close by networked, information-rich computers.
      Portions of the Questioning Toolkit should be introduced as early as Kindergarten so that students can bring powerful questioning technologies and techniques with them as they arrive in high school.
      Essential Questions
      Subsidiary Questions
      Hypothetical Questions
      Telling Questions
      Planning Questions

      Organizing Questions
      Probing Questions
      Sorting & Sifting Questions
      Clarification Questions
      Strategic Questions

      Elaborating Questions
      Unanswerable Questions
      Inventive Questions
      Provocative Questions
      Irrelevant Questions

      Divergent Questions
      Irreverent Questions

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    2. Tami, thanks for the resources. The link to is a good place for me to start with resources for teachers to develop questioning. Because of that link I got to thinking more about resources I need to find for my teachers which lead me to thinking about how to organize my thoughts, which lead me to thinking about concept mapping which lead me to find more online tools that I can share. I found one that might work for me very well (in addition to SpiderScribe). I don't know if you are familiar with it, it is There is also one more, that is pretty cool for students.


  2. I also did it again yesterday and saved the link. I am not sure why, it worked last week. Thanks for putting it up Mary!