I have been doing a lot more research and book reading this year to make an effort to really educate myself around solid principles in project based learning, deeper learning, and how to infuse these elements into the classroom without teacher burnout.
In 2014 I read and reviewed a book titled, Deeper Learning by Monica Martinez(MUST READ!!!!) which really inspired to push the envelope of thinking and learning in my school. The book opened my eyes to so many solid ideas that it lead to a book club, chats with the author, and some very powerful conversations with educators in our building. Over time we have slowly made subtle changes to our teaching and culture to allow deeper learning to take root. We have begun to develop some very high level projects and opportunities for deeper learning in our school due to the hard work, perspiration, and boundary pushing of the teachers in our building.
Recently I came across this book, Transforming Schools Using PBL, Performance Assessment, and Common Core Standards, and just had to buy it. I was so intrigued by the long title because it spoke to the exact dilemma that we are working through in our school right now. How does one incorporate the framework of Deeper Learning with quality elements of project based learning while not losing focus on the Common Core and still finding time to enter grades into a gradebook to keep parents and students happy?
Bob Lenz and crew have written a book that speaks volumes of honesty, learning, examples, and more to make this all happen. The book comes with an appendix about the same size as the contents of the book to give the reader everything they have developed in their schools. This is a huge bonus as it allows the reader to absorb the ideas, see examples, and then time to go make a modified version to fit the needs of a particular school.
This book proves that it is possible to dive deep, craft high quality projects, meet the standards, and not burn yourself out. The book provides many examples, links to further resources that just the resources alone are worth the cost of the book.
What I found to be powerful for me was to first read Deeper Learning by Monica Martinez to understand the framework for Deeper Learning. Understand how to look at your school and identify what needs to be fixed and what is working. It is more like the Why this system works. It develops the overarching framework. From there you can move into Transforming Schools to learn the How to make this happen. This book provides examples. It speaks truth. It walks the walk and does not talk down to the reader. It keeps a sense of reality in check when sharing the ideas. If you want to take it a step further you can move into the What by reading Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming by Ron Berger to develop day to day teaching tools to make sure you are on the right track.
This is a must read. It is a book you must purchase as you will write notes, highlight passages, watch the DVD contents, cross reference with Deeper Learning and Leaders of the Their Own Learning and soon you will be making changes to the classroom to develop students in ways nobody thought was possible. I found the book to be very powerful in terms of thinking project based learning. I have written on project based learning for several years and this book gave me pause to think through some ideas and where I need to improve my thinking.
I guess this review is a suggestion for three books. Over the course of April my reading of these three books will lead to a blog post a day documenting my ideas about Deeper Learning, Project Based Learning, and Student Engagement. I look forward to sharing more specifics. In the meantime start reading these books! Transforming Schools is a must read and will be one of my main staples of books to use again and again.