PBL: A to Z

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What is PBL?

In Project-Based Learning, students are challenged with devising solutions to a real-world problem or speculating about answers to an authentic question. Complex and engaging in nature, teachers design these projects in order to help students gain lastingknowledge that will ensure their long-term success.

Why PBL?

  • It can help students remain engaged.
  • It’s more dynamic than traditional models.
  • Students develop solutions to real-world problems and present their findings to authentic audiences.

So what does PBL actually look like in the classroom?

The beauty of PBL is that there isn’t only one way to deliver quality instruction! Each teacher can take best practices gathered from a variety of sources and make them their own!

During the PBL Podcast, Mark and Heather will introduce teachers to the Project-Based Learning model of instruction, explore the ways it is being implemented in classrooms today, and examine its future.

About Us

Mark Johnston – Host

Mark is currently teaching 8th grade Science and Project Lead The Way STEM classes at Bel Air Middle School in El Paso, TX. Previously, he taught at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Innovation Academy-Palestine, where he was introduced to Project-Based Learning at the middle school level.

Mark is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Educational Technology. His goal is to make world-class instructional strategies available to all teachers and assist them in using them.

“I really want to make this podcast something that is useful to all teachers. As a teacher, I am confronted daily with all of the things I do not know. I believe that if we have a growth mindset, we can all learn from our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others.”

Heather Richmond – Co-Host

Currently a high school English teacher at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Innovation Academy-Palestine, Heather Richmond has experience teaching Project-Based Learning to fifth through eleventh-grade students.

Heather is pursuing a Master’s in English Literature at the University of Texas at Tyler. Her research work focuses on authors’ integration of digital technologies into the narrative process with the goal of engaging Generation Z readers.  She is also working on two novel mansucripts: A Song for Swans, Post-Apocalyptic Literary Fiction for adult readers and Offline, a Dystopia for YA audiences.

As a teacher for ten years, she has successfully implemented Project-Based Learning at both the middle and high school levels. Her students have launched and maintained a student news site, mentored elementary students via subject-specific collaborations, and participated in nationwide PBLs in which they worked with students from around the U.S. They’ve submitted their products to national publications, presented to school and community officials, and developed their own PBL units based on state standards.

“I do not claim to be an expert at PBL design or implementation. It takes years to understand the philosophy behind the model and to learn from both your failures and successes. Through sharing these, I am hopeful that we can all learn from one another in order to create an awesome PBL experience for students- they deserve our best!”


Episode #3 – The Driving Question and Workshopping

Episode #3:  Mark and Heather discuss the importance of the Driving Question and strategies for workshopping the PBL’s standards to ensure success on the final product. Resources for Generating the Driving Question: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-how-to-write-driving-questions-andrew-miller https://learninginhand.com/blog/drivingquestions http://www.bie.org/object/document/driving_question_tubric  

Episode #2 – Planning and Launching a PBL

Episode #2: Mark and Heather discuss the first stages of Project-Based Learning, including planning strategies, the launch process, and creating Knows / Need to Knows. Resources How does PBL Work? (Edutopia) PBL Planning Forms (BIE) Project Summary (Recommended for High School): Project Summary Sample Entry Documents:


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