The Evolution of PBL

Charting the past, present, and future of Project Based Learning

by Dr. Rod Berger

Thom Markham is one of the pioneers of project based learning, having contributed to its growth as an education philosophy over the decades. He witnessed the introduction of edtech into the classroom, furthered the blending of PBL with social-emotional learning, and championed youth development and whole child education across the country and the world. Over many years he has remained committed to transforming schools and instruction by showing educators how PBL can help students become real world-ready.

I sat down with Thom to reflect on his long and successful career, exploring the past, present, and future of PBL in the United States while assessing the current trends. We discuss classroom tools and philosophies used and how they have evolved through trial and error to create the current climate of successful PBL worldwide.

Interview Highlights Timeline

  • 3:55 - How does PBL fit into the classroom?
  • 6:35 - How will teachers do professional development with PBL?
  • 8:00 - Can PBL exist without edtech?
  • 10:00 - How difficult is starting PBL in a well-established school?
  • 11:10 - What's the biggest misconception about PBL?

About Dr. Thom Markham

Considered to be a PBL pioneer, thought leader, and global educator, Thom Markham has shared his expertise in project based learning with over 6000 teachers worldwide. He blends inquiry, positive psychology, 21st-century skills, and innovation into a high performance, service-oriented model of PBL designed to help students become flexible, resilient, committed thinkers and social entrepreneurs.

He is the author of two best-selling books on project-based learning, the Buck Institute for Education’s Handbook on Project Based Learning and the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for Innovation and Inquiry for K – 12 Educators, as well as Redefining Smart: Awakening Students’ Power to Reimagine Their World, which forecasts the attitudes and beliefs necessary for young people to build a positive vision for the future. He currently leads PBL Global and is the co-Founder and Global Director of Online Learning for ZSchool.org. Follow Thom on Twitter.

Author Further Reading

This post includes mentions of a partner of MindRocket Media Group the parent company of edCircuit

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