Authentic Instruction: Exploring PBL

View this material in a Google Doc: Exploring PBL

Objective: To learn about and design a Problem-Based Learning or Project-Based Learning (PBL) task that creates authenticity for your curriculum. 

The estimated time for this activity is 25–35 minutes.

Explore This Website 

Problem-Based Learning or Project-Based Learning are instructional methods that look to engage students in authentic learning experiences. Dr. Nancy Sulla has included three additional “P” terms to the PBL conversation: passion-based, profession-based, and place-based. When reflecting upon having a culturally responsive learning environment, the inclusion of PBL allows students to have an authentic and relevant experience. Students can explore power, privilege, social justice, community involvement, and more. 

Importantly, in remote and hybrid learning environments, motivation and engagement are essential. PBLs promote rich and deep learning that allows for greater differentiation and personalized facilitation as students are motivated to work on the problem or challenge presented. 

Explore the three websites listed below to learn more about PBL in a remote learning environment, exploration of social justice, and the importance of anchoring the learning.

Stop & Think

(Key: T — Teachers SL — School Leaders, DL — District Leaders)

  1. What connections do you see between PBL and student motivation? (T, SL, DL)
  2. What resources and supports will schools need to implement a PBL? (SL, DL)
  3. How could we, as educators, involve students and parents/caregivers in the PBL process? (T, SL, DL)
  4. What are some positives to implementing a PBL? What are some hesitations about implementing PBL? (T, SL)

Brainstorm & Design

Read the sample PBL task(s) below that correspond to the grade level that you teach or support, then use the graphic organizer linked below (or draw your own), to brainstorm a few ideas based on your upcoming instructional unit. 

Sample PBL Tasks

Our Town: Same or Different?

View Our Town (K-1) as a PDF

What makes your community special? Is your town like other towns in the state? Is it like other towns in the country? Do buildings look different? What about the land? Are there rivers, beaches, or mountains?

How can we find out more about where we live and other parts of the country? We could use technology to visit and talk to students who live far away from us. We could share what our town is like and learn about theirs.

Maps are a great way to learn about an area, but let’s be a little more creative… Let’s create a 3D map so we can take our out-of-state friends on a virtual tour of our town!

The Struggle for Equality

View The Struggle for Equality (4-5) as a PDF

There have been many stories on the news about protests in this country.

In many cities and towns, people are protesting how the police treat people of color. Although some demonstrations turned violent, most were peaceful. In September 2020, Time magazine reported 93% of all protests were done peacefully. Still, communities seem broken. But you can help bring your community together!

Let’s work together to organize a community meeting. You will bring together community members to develop solutions to the racial injustice in the community.

You will need to educate the community about the history of inequality in this country. Which laws prevented people of color from feeling equal? How have we made progress? What still needs to be done?

Spread the word through a public advertising campaign. Then design a meeting where community members can share their views and develop concrete ideas to move forward. Together, we can achieve equality!

Teen Activists: Making a Difference

View Teen Activists (6-7) as a PDF

Have you ever heard of social justice? What about activism? These words often conjure up images of great leaders from history. Activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa made such amazing contributions to society and are so highly regarded that they hardly even seem like real people anymore. Sometimes we feel like we’ll never be able to live up to them, no matter how much we want to!

What if I told you that there are everyday kids and teens just like you that are doing BIG things to make a difference in the world around them? When Marley Dias was in sixth grade she loved to read. The problem was that in her school, she kept being given books that were all about White boys and their dogs—she couldn’t relate to these characters! So, she set out to collect and donate 1,000 books that feature Black girls as the main character by launching the campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks. Marley went from being a girl who loved reading, to a social media superstar and author! Young activists like Marley are giving speeches, sharing out on Twitter, starting non-profits, and writing books about many different issues of social justice. What do they all have in common?

What if I told you that YOU can also become an activist? All it takes is an idea and the right combination of determination and willpower to effect change in your community. Anybody can start with one thing they’re passionate about, and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem.

You are going to do just that! In groups you will collaborate to create a list of social justice issues. What are you passionate about? How can you make a difference? Who can help you advocate for change?

Your task is to use your new knowledge to publish an authentic product that describes the issue, a teen activist of your choice, and an action plan to either do something brand new to bring about change or follow in the footsteps of what an activist has already started!

No matter the obstacle, no matter your age, you can work hard to make the world a little bit better than when you started!

A Question of Objectivity

View A Question of Objectivity (11-12) as a PDF

Only when lions have historians, will hunters cease being heroes. – African Proverb

Think about the African proverb above. If lions, or their defenders, authored history books, hunters may have been demonized as ruthless, conniving, violent offenders.

Has there ever been a time when you and a friend experienced something together, but discover that each of you remembers it a bit differently? As individuals, our personal contexts and backgrounds influence our perceptions of the events in our lives. Just as the hunter and the lion would describe hunting very differently, the retelling of history depends upon perspective, and that the source of information directly impacts its validity.

Objectivity is an integral part of historical accounts, yet true objectivity is difficult to achieve, especially in the case of polarizing events such as the Vietnam War. Our history textbook suggests certain causes and effects of America’s involvement in Vietnam. It provides descriptions of events associated with the Vietnam War both abroad and domestically. How can you determine if the textbook provides an objective retelling of these historical events?

You are challenged with evaluating the objectivity of our history textbook and sharing your findings with the publisher. What biases might the text hold? Can we trust our historians?