Everyday PBL: Organizing Information



Youngsters in Singapore are organizing their information about the World Games as they prepare to create their final product or performance as their Evidence of Learning. The inquiry they are making is: How do global competitions impact nations?

Everyday PBL consists of mini-problem scenarios developed from ordinary, everyday lessons. The difference is, these lessons have been repurposed as inquiry learning lessons, in which students are generating questions and investigating the targeted learning to arrive at findings that inform their questions. In this case, Singapore was preparing to host the World Games, so in their social studies lesson, in current events, the teachers turned the lesson into a Everyday PBL inquiry that fully engaged students in the processes of collaborating, gathering ideas, and organizing their ideas, (which is the focus of this post), as well as thinking, prioritizing, deciding, and presenting.

As mentioned, among the problem solving steps, in Everyday PBL, is Organizing Information. It is one of the most critical phases in the process because it forces the teams to stop the search and the research and move along if they are gong to meet their deadline. It signals that it is time for the team to look over what they have and somehow make sense of all the facts, data, stories and artifacts they have accumulated.

By requiring students to use a graphic organizer of their choice, the assignment causes them to talk, discuss, explain, compare, and finally to make decisions about where the information fits in the graphic that will to guide their review of the “stuff” and, at the same time provide a visual that “makes their thinking visible.”  As they work things out in the graphic, it starts to become more evident to all team members what the biggest ideas are, how the  various ideas actually connect to each other and how and why they seem to fit together.

In this complex process of thinking for connectivity and relationships in the data,  key ideas emerge in a summary or synthesis, and the essential elements become clear enough that they ca n move on to how they might present their findings as compelling evidence to others.

Organizing is critical to problem solving in order to seek the hidden messages that are always there with n the discerete data that has be gathered. The best advice for those new to the PBL process is to realize it is about the process of learning how to solve problems, and it’s usually best  o keep the flow of steps moving at a even pace. The goal is to experience the entire cycle of PBL in a nutshell  and then reflect on how things went for each group.

That’s the learning for a lifetime that can result when shifting to Everyday PBL. Students get multiple iterations of working with whole problems with their inquiry approaches. As they take responsibility to keep going, keep fanning the fire to finish and at the asme time, to own work and to rejoice and celebrate the outcomes. It is truly joyful work for kids because they love to think hard, they have reasons to get along and it feels good when the team to reaches the finish line.

About: Everyday PBL…by Brian and Robin, their new book coming out with ASCD in fall 2017. Be on the lookout for it.


Have You Solved a Problem Today?


Why is Everyday Problem Solving Important?

Have you solved a problem today? Most likely, the answer is “Yes,!” That’s what people do, from the young to the elderly, they solve “sticky-wicket” problems that are big and small, neat and messy, easy and complicated and they do it all day long. It’s called life and life presents constant challenges to overcome. The wee ones figure out how to get shoes on and tied, the teens are engrossed in managing their forgotten homework, while the high school sophomore finagles to get the car. In the adult world, the accountant is busy sorting out a double booking, the sales clerk is racing to the bus because her car didn’t start, frantic travelers at the airport are rescheduling appointments and rebooking flights that have been unexpectedly cancelled, and the elderly woman who lives across the street is gingerly navigating the ice on the front walk. Yes, problems, challenges, and troubles make the world go round, just as accomplishments, awards and celebrations do.

With that in mind, it behooves the educational community to practice problem solving is in multiple situation. At the end of the day, the argument for practicing inquiry and problem-based learning (PBL) throughout the curriculum seems well founded. It is time to move into that 21st Century curriculum framework that challenges kids to learn how to think on their own, how to try figure things out and to take pride in their accomplishments. They begin see that they are good thinkers and good problem solvers, as their confidence in their own abilities to be aware and to take control of the situation.

It’s how you let go and let them grow. It’s okay if they struggle a little. That informs you of the skills that need attention through coaching and feedback, and mini-lessons that instruct and clarify.

That’s why Everyday PBL provides the opportunity for teachers to turn everyday lesson into everyday inquiry with the efficient and effective model.

Unleashing Problem Solvers with Everyday PBL

Step #1 Develop a Question – Essential questions are universal; they branch and reach out. (How Do Structures Impact our Lives? Structure of: sentences, atoms, family, planets)

Step #2 – Scenario and Stakeholder Role – Your point of view matters a lot to the entire PBL (Stakeholder Roles: Legal Drinking Age Bill into Law: sheriff, teen, parent, peer, sibling) 

Step #3 – Research Ideas Searching and Researching – knowing what you know, what you don’t (Researching with credible web searches, interviews, field trips, and text readings)

Step #4 – Organize Material –order your findings with tools that reflect the relationship (collect information to the point that they are farther from a solution than when they started).

Step #5Create Product –devise a product, paper, video, graph to demonstrate evidence of learning (OK, It’s not perfect! Do not allow perfect to be the enemy of good. Get it done!)

Step #6 – Present Evidence –Present in favored way with creativity and a sense of audience (the presentation is as different as cooking a turkey and serving Thanksgiving dinner)

Step #7 – Assess Learning – Formative and summative assessment for reflection (project & quality of writing, presentation, research, collaboration, time management)

ASCD Book coming out in October  2017: Everyday PBL: Pete and Fogarty

The problem with focusing relentlessly on understanding is that math and science students can often grasp essentials of an important idea, but this understanding can quickly slip away without consolidation through practice and repetition. Worse, students often believe they understand something when, in fact, they don’t. By championing the importance of understanding, teachers can inadvertently set their students up for failure as those students blunder in illusions of competence. As one (failing) engineering student recently told me: “I just don’t see how I could have done so poorly. I understood it when you taught it in class.” My student may have thought he’d understood it at the time, and perhaps he did, but he’d never practiced using the concept to truly internalize it. He had not developed any kind of procedural fluency or ability to apply what he thought he understood.

via How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math – Issue 40: Learning – Nautilus