PBL expert shares insights at St Finbar’s


PBL in action at St Finbar
PBL in action at St Finbar's Primary Glenbrook with Stephanie Ehler (left) and principal Donna McFadzean and students.

US Project Based Learning (PBL) expert Stephanie Ehler joined the leadership team at St Finbar’s Glenbrook to share world-best practice of this innovative learning technique.

Stephanie met with principal Donna McFadzean and even joined students as they carried out their PBL assignment - comparing Australia with an Asian country.

But before the Year 5 students could compare and contrast, they needed to know more information about Australia.

“So tell me something about Australia that you didn’t know and found out through this project,” asked Stephanie.

“I now know that the average lifespan of an Australian woman was 82,” one student said proudly.

Stephanie is based in Austin Texas at Cedars-International Next Generation STEAM school that emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths and was one of the first American schools to successful use PBL.

She has traveled around the world training teachers for the finer points of PBL and last week joined Steven Zipkes to provide advice the teachers in the diocese.

“It’s so great to see what happening here in the Parramatta diocese and how quickly PBL is taking off,” she said.

“The teachers are really enthusiastic about it and so are the students.”

“The older system in which a teacher just talks at students is simply spoon feeding and PBL turns that around allowing students to collaborate with one another and think critically.”

Donna said St Finbar’s had been using PBL for two years and the new system was engaging students in a better way.

“We are very grateful to have Stephanie here to show us how to better practice PBL and help lift the learning,” she said.

Other projects included a war on waste in which the students wrote to Coles and Woolworths asking them to stop issuing plastic bags.

After the retail giants recently said they would stop issuing plastic, the youngsters have claimed the victory. "We have saved Australia," they said. 

Another group will take on colonalisation and the history on the Blue Mountains. 

PBL involves grouping 3-6 students working together and completing a project on an issue. They all sit at one table and use a laptop or iPad to research information as the teacher leads the group.

But the focus is on children interacting with one another so they are better engaged. 

Posted By CathEd Parra at 14/08/2017 4:19:55 PM

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