Project Based Learning: Don’t Start with a Question

Thought provoking article by Peter Skillen from his The Construction Zone Blog. Let’s teach and learn innovatively.

The Construction Zone

End with a Question through Tinkering-Based Learning

Do you have to start project-based learning (PBL) with a question?

(Oh, wait a second! Am I starting this post with a question?)

This is something many people ask. I understand why this is so. Often teachers who are learning about Project Based Learning are encouraged to help students to develop a ‘driving question’ to guide their project. The Buck Institute, for one, suggests that PBL ‘is organized around an open-ended Driving Question’.

Tinkering-Based Learning (TBL)

Tinkering Awesome graphic: Page by Giulia Forsythe – @grantpotter Tinkering, Learning & The Adjacent Possible

I am going to suggest we consider an alternative I will call TBL – Tinkering-Based Learning!

‘PBL’ is a human-made construct

As I have said elsewhere, ‘PBL’ is a human-made construct. And, whoever defines it, does so with a bias—from a set of beliefs. Do you think, perhaps, that starting PBL…

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Rewiring the teacher’s brain; it should be child’s play!

Let us take a look at a modern classroom: a learner uses a computer every day, possibly ‘rewiring’ his/her brain in a way that the parents’ and teacher’s grey matters were not. This learner can multi-task, plays on the internet, texts, listens to music and watches YouTube videos all at once. All these tasks influence the way and speed in which the learner processes information.

The digital world is leading to different ways in brain development, different environments in which we learn, and it does seem to be impacting on cognitive, social and emotional development. Exposure to such technology from a young age is changing the learning patterns and sources of digital natives and has far reaching consequences for the way teachers educate future generations.  This means that schools now require a very different type of teacher who can help learners interpret information from sources beyond the teacher’s control and own personal knowledge base.  

The scenario described above implies that students’ (digital natives) brains are ‘wired’ differently to that of adults and as teachers we have to learn how to ‘rewire’ our own brains in order to address the education needs of the students of today.  Teachers in modern classrooms have no option but to keep up with advances in new technologies and their integration into the classroom. 

This brings me back to the value of Continued Professional Development for teachers. Teachers will only embark on a process of lifelong learning when they understand the reason to learn something new.  Teachers are mostly interested in learning more about subjects that have immediate relevance to their work and personal lives.  Past experience (foundation) will also provide a basis for new learning activities.  Allowing teachers to be responsible for their own learning will instinctively motivate them to make decisions regarding their personal education, and encourage involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.  My belief is that teachers respond better to internal motivators than external.

Regardless of opinion, technology is here to stay and, although it will never take the place of teachers, those who do not embrace technology and appreciate its pedagogical value will be overtaken by those who do. As an ex-teacher who has personally undergone the ‘rewiring’ process and experienced the benefits, I would like to challenge every teacher to embrace the process of lifelong learning, learn to ‘rewire’ your brain and achieve the fulfillment

of your own increased potential.

Be a teacher of excellence!

Curated by Karen Durandt
Professional Development Manager
VastraTech (Pty) Ltd
SMART Certified Training Center in Southern Africa

The importance of Continued Professional Development for teachers

The most important attribute of a good teacher is to possess a deep rooted passion children and their education; and most will tell you that this is the exact reason they chose their career path. Once a teacher becomes integrated in the education system though, the questions beg: how does one stay relevant in today’s teaching environment and how does one truly engage your students in the classroom?

Both parents and teachers acknowledge that today’s learner is a digital native and that learning in this way seems only natural too. This belief in the value technology brings to the classroom has seen schools investing in technology; however the tool is only as powerful as the user. In the past, obtaining a degree or a diploma was once-off and proved sufficient indefinitely. It has, however become essential for teachers to continually educate themselves in the effective use of technology in the classroom, understand the pedagogical value it brings and apply best practice principals.

Meet ‘Continuous Professional Development’: the process of lifelong learning where teachers are enabled to embrace rapidly developing information & technologies and become true teachers of excellence. With ‘learning agility’ being a professional prerequisite, Karen Durandt, SMART Education Consultant and VastraTech Professional Development Manager invites you to join her as she explores the importance of continued professional development.

Curated by Karen Durandt
Professional Development Manager and Education Consultant


VastraTech (Pty) Ltd
SMART Certified Training Center in Southern Africa