Education Opinion

HQPBL Case Study: Thrive Public Schools

By Tom Vander Ark — March 14, 2018 2 min read


Many educators are finding that high quality Project Based Learning (HQPBL) successfully transcends backgrounds, languages and students’ past experiences. For a school that draws a diverse student body from across 45 very different zip codes, the approach could be characterized as the glue that holds its culture and curricula together.

PBL provides an opportunity for the students of Thrive Public Schools to work on authentic, real-world challenges--the kind that equip them with a practical skill set to tackle the kinds of obstacles higher education, and later, their professional lives, may very well present. (The schools, which serve students across San Diego, were designed specifically for PBL.)

The methodology is igniting enthusiasm starting in Kindergarten, where Thrive’s youngest students are collaborating on intellectually challenging problems--and they’re seeing real-world impact. As students advance, PBL naturally builds with greater complexity and autonomy.

Yet when educators advocate for PBL as the exclusive approach to take, CEO Nicole Assisi responds by saying ‘Yes--PBL and...?’ She believes that bolstering students’ testing ability, vocabulary and content skills are more effectively delivered in another modality.

“If PBL isn’t an integral part of their education, students won’t have the passion, persistence and sense of purpose that outcomes-based PBL brings,” Assisi explained. “So we understand that PBL can get students through college, but it can’t be the method relied upon to gain them entry.”

The complexities of supporting students’ social and emotional development as well as their academic progress requires an integrated approach. In this spirit, Thrive’s teachers are trained to incorporate PBL into their instruction in ways that support other methods of learning as well.

Interesting in learning how Thrive has put HQPBL into practice in its classrooms? Check out our case study for teacher-created resources, including rubrics, project cards and more.

This blog is a part of the HQPBL Campaign supported by the Buck Institute for Education and sponsored by Project Management Institute Educational Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For more, visit hqpbl.org and follow @hqpbl #hqpbl on Twitter and Instagram.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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