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Connecting PBL to Personalized Learning

Connecting PBL to Personalized Learning

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will connect the components of PBL relates to the five design principles of personalized learning.

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Source: Image of light bulb, Public Domain, ; Image for Learning, Public Domain,

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Hello, I'm Tricia Fyfe, and today our lesson is Connecting PBL, or problem-based learning, to personalized learning. In today's lesson, we will be discussing the following question, how are problem-based learning and personalized learning connected? What are the connections?

So let's start with a reminder of what problem-based learning is. What is it? According to Buck Institute for Education in 2010, problem-based learning is the extended process of learning in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Students are given voice and choice, so it's a student-centered pedagogy. Projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed, and students are learning those key academic content skills, practicing 21st century skills, the four C's, which we'll discuss in further lessons, and creating high quality, authentic products and presentations.

Problem-based learning is a pedagogy that's really student centered. The students are learning through domain knowledge, and also the through thinking strategies. Some of the characteristics of problem-based learning classrooms are the student inquiry, teachers being the facilitator, flexible thinking, problem solving, self-directed learning, collaboration, intrinsic motivation because that problem is a motivating factor, solving that problem, and active student engagement.

So let's talk for a moment about what personalized learning is. According to the US Department of Education's definition in their 2010 US Department of Education Learning Powered by Technology Plan, personalized learning is an alternative to the one size fits all model of teaching and learning. What this means is that personalisation refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, individualized needs, tailored to learning preferences, differentiated, and tailored to specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalised, the learning objectives in content, as well as the method and pace may all vary.

There are five essential elements of personalized learning, including flexible anytime, everywhere learning, redefining the teacher's role and expanding the teacher, project-based, authentic learning, student-driven learning path, and mastery/competency-based progression and pace.

There are several reasons why personalized learning is so important to the classroom environment. These reasons include increased engagement of your students. It also includes creating opportunities for students to engage in problem solving and learning that's authentic, and it empowers students to own their own learning. They're the directors of their own learning. They're making choices, and they have voice. It also allows students to master content and skills, while working at their own pace. This allows students to learn more deeply, at their own pace.

Personalized learning leverages technology to expand education beyond the schoolhouse walls. It opens up so many opportunities using technology, and also supports the acquisition of those 21st century skills, those four C's, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Personalized learning and personalisation is different than differentiation, and it's important to understand that. In a differentiated classroom, students are working towards meeting the same objectives within a similar time frame, but they use different strategies or approaches.

Problem-based learning connects to four out of the five principles of personalized learning, and the four connections are flexible, anytime/everywhere learning. In problem-based learning, we promote flexible thinking. Students are also encouraged to use problem solving skills, and authentic products are created.

Problem-based learning also connects to the personalized learning principle of redefine teacher's role, and expand the teacher. Teachers become the facilitator instead of the director of learning. No longer are they up in front of the classroom lecturing, but instead they're working with the students, co-developing, co-learning, and guiding students' learning.

Problem-based learning also connects to the principle of project-based, authentic learning. Students are given a question or a problem to solve, and they're asked to work, oftentimes in groups collaborating and communicating together, to create an authentic product that they later publish to an audience.

Problem-based learning also connects to the principle of personalized learning, that is, student-driven learning path. Problem-based learning is a very student-driven pedagogy, and the learning path is created by the students, and the groups and those collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills. The students have voice, and they have choice in their learning.

So let's review what we learned today. We discussed the question, how are problem-based learning and personalized learning connected? And we talked about the fact that four out of the five personalized learning design principles are connected. And those connections are the personalized learning principles of flexible, anytime/everywhere everywhere learning, redefining the teacher role and expanding the teacher, project-based, authentic learning, and student-driven learning path.

Now that we've talked about these ideas and concepts, let's take a moment to apply these ideas by reflecting on this question. What are the benefits to considering the principles of personalized learning, when lesson planning for the problem-based learning classroom?

Thanks for joining me today, as we discussed connecting problem-based learning to personalized learning. I hope you're able to use these concepts, as you get ready to apply them to your own lesson plans. To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on “Connecting PBL to Personalized Learning”


(00:00- 00:20) Introduction/Objectives

(00:21- 01:01) What is PBL?

(01:02- 01:34) What are the Characteristics of PBL?

(1:35-02:36) What is Personalized Learning?

(02:37-03:46) Benefits of Personalized Learning

(03:47- 05:09) Connections Between PBL and Design Principles of Personalized Learning

(05:10- 05:39) Recap

(05:40- 06:20) Reflection

Additional Resources

Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education

This is a comprehensive overview of personalized learning, blended learning, and competency based education. This report breaks down personalized learning into three categories and explains how to accomplish each in your setting: personalized learning, personalized learning in the blended learning environment, and personalization support by competencies. In addition, there is a helpful section called "How Standards Fit into Personalized, Blended
and Competency Education."

Next Generation Learning Challenges: Summit Public Schools

Next Generation Learning Challenges is a grant funded by the Gates Foundation to incorporate problem based and project based learning into personalized learning; Summit Denali is one of the schools that received the grant. The Summit Denali school day is designed around the four elements of college and career readiness. The Summit student experience includes: Personalized Learning Time, Project Time, Mentor Time, Summit Reads, and Community Time. The structures of Summit can be studied by educators in order to implement personalized learning within their organization using some or all of the strategies used by Summit.