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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Wednesday, June 29, 2011

School of Education at IUPUI continues growth with third PBL Institute

June 29, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- More than 220 educators from three states and around 50 facilitators are taking part in the third annual "Learning by Doing: Project-Based Learning Institute" this week in Indianapolis. It's a four-day event concluding Thursday (June 30), sponsored by the Indiana University School of Education at IUPUI, the University of Indianapolis and its Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL), and the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township -- host of the event at Ben Davis High School.

PBL Teaching

Rhonda Huisman, assistant librarian at the IUPUI University Library and liaison to the School of Education, speaks to a group about creating library-centered PBL teaching units.

Project-based learning (PBL) requires students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking.Teachers throughout Indiana and across the country have been adopting its techniques as a way to engage students in content by placing it in a "real world" context and emphasizing skills of collaboration and teamwork with classmates.

Teaching teams from Utah and Ohio have again joined Indiana participants for this year's event -- they also came to the 2010 PBL Institute. The institute opened with a new pre-workshop event, added content disciplines, addressed PBL in the context of standards and testing, and expanded the grade level of teachers. During the first two years, participants have been focused on teaching middle school through postsecondary. This summer's program has added elementary-level teaching.

Joy Seybold, chair of secondary teacher education and coordinator for the Transition to Teaching Program at IUPUI, said that the continued spread of PBL at the middle school and beyond has spurred elementary teachers to learn more, even if they aren't fully using PBL for their students. "They want to prepare students so they're ready for the new tech approach when they get to high school," Seybold said. "So I think that's partially why there's a growing interest among the elementary population. But then there have been several elementary schools that have been more or less project-based all along and now they're taking it to the next step."

This year's event has also attracted more teachers from different subject areas who want to partner on PBL projects. "We're pulling a lot more school teams, particularly high school interdisciplinary teams," said Adriana Melnyk-Brandt, director of professional development for the IU School of Education at IUPUI. "This is exciting because we're seeing a new approach at the high school level, with teachers trying to take it across all content areas." Melnyk-Brandt added that the institute has many more first-time participants this summer from a range of schools, including charters, parochial, and more rural settings.

There are more specialized areas covered during the workshop as well, including librarians, or media specialists. Rhonda Huisman, assistant librarian at the IUPUI University Library and liaison to the School of Education, said that she observed last year's PBL Institute "and there were lots and lots of question that I thought librarians could answer."

Huisman said elementary librarians often have a chance to co-create student PBL units with teachers, and there are also opportunities for middle and high school teachers to partner with librarians. She said she also wanted to give others some thoughts about how they might drive a PBL lesson plan using library resources. "Some participants right now have no librarian at their school," Huisman said. "So this is the perfect opportunity for them to sort of pick our brains about what would we do if we were there to assist them, and even give them some outside support once they leave here."

Seybold said an added piece this year is helping teachers use each other as resources after the workshop is over. All participants are establishing accounts this week through "Edmodo" -- a free social learning network for teachers, students, and schools that can help the teachers share ideas, lesson plans, and seek advice. "So we're hoping that the online networking will really support them over the time that they're implementing the projects that they develop here," Seybold said.

For more on the PBL Institute, you can view a short video on the IU School of Education YouTube page or the IU School of Education Vimeo Channel.