Professionals in the field of education work and interact in a context specific to their environment, with perspectives, trends, and a shared jargon of their own – just like project managers. While it is far from a comprehensive review, this section of the Toolkit provides some essential background to help non-experts “speak the language” of education as they research their communities, engaging in community conversations, and working directly with schools and educators.
The sections below refer heavily to related Toolkit sections, because their content is too specific and diverse to summarize here usefully. Reading the Toolkit sections in full will give a much fuller complete picture.
One important note: the term “educators” as used in the Toolkit does not only apply to teachers. While teachers will be perhaps the most important players involved in implementing PBL at the classroom level, at different stages of this project others will also play crucial roles, including: school district administrators, school board members, and especially the principals of individual schools, who are likely to be the key gatekeepers. Those districts and schools in your region that are most likely to have the capacity and willingness to implement PBL are the primary audience for these efforts.
Current education strategies
The Toolkit sections “Understanding Education Strategies” is a relatively short primer on selected current strategies and “school improvement” initiatives related to PBL and career-themed education, including Common Core and the 21st Century Learning framework. Concepts covered include: a) Common Core and other state standards, b) college and career readiness and the 21st Century Learning context, c) College and Career Pathways and Career Academies, d) Work-Based Learning, e) Next Generation Science Standards, and f) Deeper Learning. While not an exhaustive list, these topics are right at the forefront of conversations about education transformation nationally and locally in many places.
The document explains each of these strategies very briefly and offers links to discover more information on each topic. The text lists questions, links, and summaries to help investigate how local school districts are responding to national trends and assist in finding the schools that are most ready to engage with PBL.
Messages and resources for educators
The section above (“Why Project-Based Learning?”) the Toolkit includes a section called “Sharing the Value of Project Management with Educators” that outlines a set of key messages defining project management, the benefits of PBL, how PBL aligns with evolving state education standards, and the value that project managers can bring to the classroom to help them reach their goals. These messages, written with an educator audience in mind, are intended to arm project leaders, other professionals, and intermediary organizations with a set of key messages about PBL that they can use to prepare for focused conversations with educators about Project-Based Learning.
Another document, “Helpful Project-Based Learning Resources for Educators,” is intended as a handout for educators. It lists a set of links to websites and documents with more learning about all of these PBL-related these topics, including the virtual workshops and handbooks that PMIEF has created targeted to teachers.
Supporting PBL in the classroom
Because one possible outcome of this process is for project managers to bring their expertise to planning and implementing learning projects in the classroom, the Toolkit section “Project Managers in the Classroom” offers important information about preparing to work with students and teachers, including ideas for what project managers are likely to actually be asked to do in schools. It also includes recommendations for developing quality internships and other work-based learning experiences.
In addition, another section for teachers, “Project-Based Learning in Action,” defines a well-designed learning project and gives several examples of learning projects that have already been used successfully in schools.
An educators-only convening?
Although a possible Community Convening component, where selected key education leaders would join project managers, intermediary organizations, and other stakeholders, is mentioned above, the Toolkit hasn’t to this point encouraged a separate convening of educators. That is not to say that such a gathering would not necessarily be appropriate, but the usefulness of bringing together educators will depend on the local context and should be determined by the leadership team of the overall community effort.
The purpose of an educator convening will also vary depending on a region’s individual situation. It might range from meeting with district and/or school officials to discuss the benefits of using PBL in the classroom (in which case the information above in this section should be helpful) to working together to develop an implementation strategy. It is worthwhile to consider asking educator allies who are already advocates for PBL – a principal if working with a single school, a superintendent in an individual district, or a respected policy leader in a group of districts – to take the leading role in educator convenings.
Determining the set of educators to invite to a convening requires figuring out the scope of this effort to implement PBL in the classroom: Will it encompass an entire school district? More than one district? One school only? A group of schools? This decision will necessarily impact the group of educators who should be involved. The school district may also want to select one or a few career themed academies or pathways to pilot Project Management training with their teachers.
As stated more than once in the Toolkit, principals will be the key gateway figures in accessing schools, but the targeted invitation list will depend on the context of the schools that the project leadership wishes to engage. They will also need to determine whether and which district officials and/or individual teachers would be appropriate to invite. The Community Resource Mapping outcomes, the discussion at a Community Convening, and further research will help them to identify the right individuals with whom to engage.