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15 Common PBL Mistakes | mistake #11: ignore local expertise

I have the best job in the world. On a regular basis, I’m given the extraordinary fortune to talk with teachers who are embarking on a PBL journey with their students. To dig into the smaller, everyday details of how to make this type of learning environment work. To answer the tough questions about sustainability, rigor, behavior management and then take the questioner further…that’s like chocolate to me! I can’t get enough.

Over the years of starting my own PBL school and learning in a baptismal fire, I’ve been able to find a way to talk with new or reluctant teachers about their concerns. Additionally, there are things that excited, energetic teachers might want to consider as they take their first steps into the PBL fire as well.

In the next month or so, I’ll be publishing a regular series to include 15 common mistakes that educators make and some solutions they might consider. Here’s the next one in the series:

Mistake #11:
Overlook the varied expertise right inside our own community (school and otherwise)

Problem: One of the ways we can bring the community on board with our work is to get them involved and invested in the work as well. Too many times parents are relegated to “cookie provider” and that’s a shame. There is a wealth of experience and expertise inside our own walls, if only we would ask for it.

Solution: It’s difficult to be against something if you feel you’re truly a part of building it and it’s success. Find ways to poll parents and community members about their jobs, hobbies, etc. Don’t make this mandatory, but instead help them see that this is a great way to get connected with the future. You might consider doing this on a classroom by classroom basis, as a way to personally connect teachers and home. Perhaps the process gets moved to a school-wide level eventually to help connect classrooms, topics, and teachers. Additionally, there are teachers who can be called upon as experts outside their current teaching assignments. How might your school shine a light on them as people with hobbies, or as experts in some professional field, instead of just “classroom teachers”?

Want to learn more about Project/Problem Based Learning and how to support it?


In 2006 with 12 years of traditional classroom experience and 2 days of formal PBL training in her pocket, Ginger Lewman started a middle school, grades 5-8, that was a 1:1 laptop and Project Based Learning environment. Five years later, the middle school had doubled in population twice and had expanded to include PBL in grades K-8. They were also in the process of opening a PBL high school the next fall. Ginger now works with school leaders in helping them learn how to support the PBL shift, and inspires their teachers to take the leap. Meanwhile, she also continues to co-teach with K-12 teachers in the training process, keeping her own teaching chops sharp and ready.  

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Written by GingerLewman

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