PBL 2.0: What Really Drives High Performance? | Thom Markham | 6 Min Read

In the first article for PBL Week, I made the argument that PBL offers educators a path to transform education from a test-based enterprise into a strengths-based approach that supports the internal growth of students. I termed it brightness, a term that works well for the elementary example that I cited. 

For older students, who are less likely to dance around the stage at the end of an Exhibition of Learning, brightness takes on a different hue. As academics become more important to their future, they want to become skillful learners capable of mastering core knowledge. But even with this age group, the value-add that PBL offers is critical: Are they emerging from projects as more engaged, creative, flexible, and committed learners, more capable of riding the waves of modern life?

These results can be visible, too. In my experience, great projects mature young people. Older students might not dance, but they often stand taller, engage in more adult conversation, and adopt behaviors that indicate greater readiness for the social and personal challenges of life after school. 

Whether we can really mature students or elicit brightness is not an idle question for educators as we face off with mid-21st-century…

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Thom Markham

Thom Markham is an educator, regenerative psychologist, and global entrepreneur. Thom pioneered the worldwide buildout of project-based learning and human development programs for youth and is the author of Redefining Smart: Awakening Students’ Power to Reimagine Their World. Currently, his work is focused on turning schools green through deep sustainability. He shares his ideas in Rx for the Planet, with Dr. Thom, a newsletter designed to prod human thinking beyond convention and assumption.