Master PBL in 5 easy steps


For as long as I can remember, I was really good at school. Not because I fully understood the concepts, but because I was REALLY GOOD at playing the game.

I knew all the rules.

'Fold your hands nicely.'

'Do all your homework.'

'Get the teacher to like you.'

'Study hard the night before exams.'

'Ace the tests.'

Sure, there were different classrooms and teachers, but they all played by similar rules. And I mastered them. I passed school with flying colors, carried a 4.4 G.P.A. my senior year, and got into the top three schools of my choice.

It wasn't until I exited school as a 22 year old that I learned, knowing a lot about school DOESN'T REALLY HELP you in the real world.

And as a result, I struggled.

I didn't know how to balance a budget, make sound financial decisions, remodel my home, or start a non- profit. I only knew how to ace tests. Unfortunately, the real world is NOT A TEST. The stakes are a lot higher. Make a wrong decision in school, and your grade suffers, make a poor decision in life, and it's hard to recover.

I wish I had learned in school what I learned after graduating from college.

How many of you have had the same experience?

Or better yet, answer this question, "What is the most important thing you learned in school?"

I'm sure your memories are flooded more with experiences, trips, and hands on projects rather than essays, exams and tests.

What if we increased these kinds of experiences in school? What if there was a way to teach students the concepts of the real world and have them master them before their 18th birthdays?

The good news is that we can. We must. We will. We live in an age where curiosity can be sustained with a simple click of a mouse, or a short youtube search.

The question we have to answer as educators, is

How do we make schools look more like real life?

After 12 years, I think I have stumbled upon the answer. Here it is...

We bring the real world into the classroom.

How do we do this? Through interdisciplinary projects that ask students to solve real world challenges. We ask students to run their own businesses, reconstruct their classrooms, publish their own books, and manage their own finances.

How do I lead this kind of learning?

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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