51: Amping Up the Authenticity



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Evolution of projects from towards more authenticity:  scenario based -> project world = real world


Characteristics & Challenges of Most Authentic Projects:
  • Project work = work of the world
  • Student products are used by people outside school
  • Students have more choice to define products
  • Not all standards can appear in all products
  • Can give all students opportunities to gain mastery of all learning targets in project scaffolding
  • Involves a provocative driving question that acts as a call to action for students to solve a real problem
  • Driving question can be resolved  by a wide variety of end products
  • Content authority ceded to experts outside the classroom
  • Time frame can get mushy for some products due to interactions with real clients running on schedules different from the school schedule


Related Useful tools:
  • Nepris 
    • Web-based tool that connects experts to classroom, teachers can post requests and repris matches experts to request
    • Heard that wait time is about 3 weeks
  • IGNITE by DiscoverSTEAM
    • Online platform that sets up secure communication platform between companies that want to interact with students and schools
    • Companies present projects to students that they want solved; if students develop solutions the companies can use, they can pay students
    • Teachers can work with companies to develop rubrics aligned to standards
    • All communication between students and companies is recorded and reviewed for quality and research purposes
    • IGNITE is FREE to schools because companies pay for it as a way to recruit American talent and to market their companies
    • Companies prefer to have a yearlong relationship with students – my idea to extend the interaction time with companies is to relay the company project through different courses;  project could start in ELA for initial research and writing processes, then move to a Science course for designing data studies and gathering data, then move to a Math class to analyze the data, then move to a Social Studies class or Audio Visual class to finalize conclusions and create products, etc
    • NOTE: This company is looking for PBL teachers to pilot their tool.  Contact them if you’re interested

The more time teachers and students spend doing PBL projects, the more difficult it gets to make projects feel fresh and meaningful.   Facilitating real world projects is one way for advanced PBL teachers and advanced PBL students to frame learning within more relevant contexts and challenges.  Authentic problems can also give students exposure to careers they have not yet considered and give them a better idea of how real experts solve problems.

Preparation Steps
  • Extend your network – contact companies, university groups, and local groups of experts who do things that relate to your course
  • Build a database that contains potential contacts – see above
  • Contact them early – in the summer if possible – to see if there are problems they’d like students to solve or explore that could align to standards
  • Check if school has partnered with companies like Nepris or DiscoverSTEAM – if the partnership is there, learn how to use those tools and start using them expand your network
  • Plan Year at a Glance (Scope and Sequence)
  • Contact experts early to see if they can interact with students at the appropriate times in the year (or adjust your scopes & sequence as needed)
  • Develop templates (email and phone call) for students to contact experts
  • Develop tools that students can use to document their unique projects and their ties to key content and problem solving processes that are being uncovered in the classroom
  • Design scaffolding that supports real world project work and aligns to standards
  • Research and commit to a design process (or similar problem solving processes) that will organize the project and that students will use to solve project problems
Early Implementation Steps
  • Work with experts to support students with content knowledge and with formative feedback they can use to improve their understandings and products
  • Organize project around a common design process (or similar problem solving processes) that students will apply to develop different products of their choice
  • Implement class-wide scaffolding that ensures that all students have opportunities to learn targeted content
  • Be flexible with final product completion and final presentation dates as these may vary depending on their solutions and their clients
  • If possible – set a common proposal presentation date to review and give critical friends feedback on proposed solutions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop sustaining relationships with experts that enable different cohorts of students to gain exposure to real world problems that have better and better project design (if the opportunity arises to interact with same experts on similar projects form year to year)
  • Arrange for field trips that allow students to get close hand  exposure to experts and to gain experiences that can help them gather useful data related to their projects
  • For experts that like prolonged relationships with students, collaborate with other courses to extend project over time (see relay idea above)

One thought on “51: Amping Up the Authenticity

  1. I feel so honored to have my brain eaten! However, what I like about your post is that in commingles my thoughts with your interpretation to create a better list than either one of us might have created alone. For example – I didn’t mention “design process” in my preso, but you very nicely brought that out. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.

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