This past week was our last official event, and we all had the opportunity to share how we had grown through our HILN experience. It was bittersweet; I was proud at how far all of us had traveled on this PBL journey, but I was sad to see it end. Our culminating activity was a presentation to a panel, some of our HILN colleagues, and invited guests. This was a great opportunity for me to reflect on my personal journey as a PBL leader.
The first HILN sessions set the tone for what was to come. ("A Unique Opportunity") I'll be honest; I was a bit hesitant at first because I didn't know anyone else who was part of this cohort, and uncertain about what to expect. The activities were designed to get to know others better, and I could see that I was somewhere in the middle where PBL was concerned. I had done a lot of reading and our school was committed to making the change from teacher-directed interdisciplinary units to student-driven project-based learning, but as we know, change takes time. Some school leaders were just exploring the possibility of implementing PBL at their schools while for others in HILN, PBL was an integral part of the teaching and learning experience at their schools (e.g. SEEQS and Innovations Charter School)
Our quarterly HILN sessions went by quickly. This was the first time that I participated in professional development of this nature where we met quarterly over a period of time with the opportunity to apply what we had learned and to reflect on our experiences prior to the next session. I looked forward to the HILN workshops; there is something to be said about building a culture of trust with like-minded school leaders. I quickly realized that I would gain from this PD what I put into it, and building relationships with my fellow HILN colleagues was essential. It helped to have a leader whom I liked immediately upon meeting her. Cris Waldfogel put me at ease and pushed me to reflect more deeply and to think above and beyond. The HILN workshops were all part of us experiencing PBL through the lens of a school leader.
The relationships we built with our HILN colleagues are what made our discussions and the activities so effective. One of the most powerful activities was our "Learning Walk" where we visited each others' schools and had the opportunity to share challenges we were facing in a safe and supportive environment and to seek and receive feedback from our colleagues in the form of "wonderings" or probing questions. ("PBL Learning Walks - An Awesome PD Experience")
I realize that now, I look at problems or challenges through a PBL lens. I find myself asking questions, exploring to discover answers, and then sharing what I've learned often through a blog post. "Why?" questions are pondered prior to asking "How?" or "What?" and modeling the process for our teachers has helped them to be more open to implementing PBL, even if they are starting with baby steps. ("The World Looks Different from a PBL Perspective")
We culminated HILN by presenting our learning to a panel and others in the audience. We submitted a digital collection of our learning prior to this presentation, and as I reflected on the critical elements of PBL - vision, culture, capacity building, and continuous improvement - I realized just how much I had gained through my participation in HILN. I loved hearing my colleagues share their PBL journey and realized how much all of us had grown. This was not intended to be a dog-and-pony-show, but rather a response to the driving question, "How have you used your Project Based Learning Leadership Elements to promote and sustain high-quality PBL in your school or district?" Somehow, though, we all managed to weave in some of the exemplary projects at our schools as part of our presentation, and frankly, I was blown away by what some of our students are doing at their schools.
Our commitment to PBL at Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School continues to evolve. I believe that PBL will always be evolving because as our world changes and new problems emerge, our students' questions, interests, and curiosity will dictate where their learning will take them. PBL is a way of thinking, a shift from student as a passive receptacle of lessons to an active maker of their own learning. It is an exciting time to be an educator!
Link to my Digital Collection
Link to my Demonstration of Learning