Developing a PBL unit allows you to go into a mind space of designer. The primary step a teacher should take in project design is identifying content standards and learning outcomes which students will work towards learning and applying throughout the project. Once standards and outcomes are determined, an authentic project scenario/idea and a final product, which will allow students to demonstrate mastery of concepts, can be decided upon. You can capture this design process in the NTN Project Planning Toolkits.
1. Choosing Power Standards
NTN recommends no more than 3-4 standards per content area in the project’s design. This being said, great intentionality goes into identifying high-leverage standards as most appropriate to design for. NTN also refers to these high-leverage standards as power standards. Power standards allow students to experience in-depth learning of critical material required for content connections, application, and performance assessments. A key step on the teacher’s end is to prioritize content standards representative of those which may be applied or connected across multiple disciplines, build upon key concepts, and associated with state or national requirements. For more information on power standards read our article, Powering Your PBL Course: Power Standards.
2. Outcomes that Matter:
Along with the content standards, and equally weighted in project design, are the New Tech Learning Outcomes (NTLO’s). Learning outcomes play a vital role in project design as you begin to consider the skills necessary to produce active and engaged learners. Identifying learning outcomes which students will have the opportunity to learn, practice and receive formative feedback for contributes to students’ post-secondary paths. As with content standards, teachers should be strategic in selecting NTLO’s to focus on for their project design. While it is customary to identify 1-2 indicators per learning outcome, it is not expected that each of the learning outcomes are represented in every project. In selecting which learning outcomes to design for you will need to consider which skills will be necessary for students to practice and master in direct support of their final product. It may also be helpful to use the Learning Outcomes Card Set for help in supporting the skills students need to master these outcomes.
3. Deciding on a Project Idea:
The next project design is deciding on a project idea or scenario which will bring the standards and learning outcomes to life. A project idea typically emerges from a marriage of specific content and learning outcomes (as discussed above), and a current event, a call to action, or an authentic connection. Such context will assist you in determining a final product(s) and/or culminating event which students will have the opportunity to apply their learning of standards and outcomes towards. Once the project idea and final product are identified you can begin to plan for targeted learning. To see how your project idea is measuring up against key PBL design elements, refer to our Indicators of Deeper Learning. For inspiration on your project idea, refer to Where can I get ideas for projects and PrBL Units?