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Teaching with Project-Based Learning at Chicago Tech Academy

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Since her first year at Nazareth Prep, Emily Yowonske has participated in transdisciplinary project-based learning (PBL) units with other members of the ninth grade team. This summer presented a opportunity for Yowonske to deepen her understanding of this progressive approach to learning through a three day workshop at Chicago Tech Academy entitled “Teaching with Project Based Learning.”

Nazareth Prep and Chicago Tech Academy are both members of Schools That Can, an organization focused on advancing real-world and student-centered learning. The educators at ChiTech have been implementing PBL since 2014. Similar to Nazareth Prep, every course at ChiTech utilizes PBL as the foundation of the curriculum.

Mr. Joshua Dresser, a music teacher at Chicago Tech, lead the three-day training for teachers. Josh used his own journey towards rigorous and engaging PBL units to inform the focus of each session. His first-hand experience in the classroom allowed him to offer insightful suggestions on how to structure PBL lessons for student success.

Yowonske and the other teachers first participated in a “PBL slice,” a two-day mini-unit that incorporated all of the aspects of authentic PBL. By taking on the role of students, Yowonske and her fellow teacher got to experience how learners feel as they develop new skills and knowledge through the PBL process. After exhibiting their product to an authentic audience, the participants then re-examined their experience to discover how the unit had been purposefully designed to put students in control of their own learning while developing a product for exhibition.

Yowonske sharpened her PBL design skills by participating brainstorming and rapid prototyping sessions. She also gathered tools and techniques for assisting other teachers in improving their PBL units during breakout sessions. One session focused on protocols for critiquing/improving PBL unit design, and the other session introduced a standards-based approach to assessment in PBL.  

As Nazareth Prep aims to expand and refine our PBL practice, Yowonske hopes the expertise of ChiTech educators will continue to be a valuable resource for Naz Prep teachers.