Work With Us

Work With Us

We have worked with thousands of educators across the country to implement project based learning, inquiry-based learning, student-centered learning, and more. For inquiries, please email RossCoops31@gmail.com and/or psumurphette@gmail.com.

Here are nine popular options, all customizable and applicable K-12, that align with the content from our latest book, Project Based Learning: Real Questions. Real Answers. How to Unpack PBL and Inquiry. Most options can be delivered as a keynote or workshop, and we also provide professional learning from a distance.

Why Project Based Learning?  

“Whenever we involve ourselves in project based learning, we think back to why we first decided to embrace this approach. These reasons serve as motivation and help us humanize the work. After all, our curriculum work won’t matter if what we do doesn’t resonate with people on a personal level.”

Project Based Learning: Real Questions. Real Answers., Introduction

It’s easy to get caught up in project based learning without exploring why we’re trying to make it happen for our students. With all of the instructional shifts that could be taking place in our schools, there are some very concrete reasons why project based learning should be prioritized. We’ll explore four specific reasons:

  • PBL promotes relevance (not just engagement) by giving students voice and choice in their learning.
  • PBL helps us to work smarter, not harder by taking more of a holistic approach to instructional planning.
  • PBL provides context for professional learning by being the glue that can connect several initiatives.
  • PBL makes us future ready by being an approach that prepares students for their future, in and out of school.

In addition, participants will be asked to dig deep and reflect upon their why for becoming educators and their why for wanting to engage students in project based learning.

Project Based Learning 101 

“Project based learning is both inspiring and scary. When we first took the dive into project based learning, we immersed ourselves in countless books, articles, and videos, many of which are still popular today. While what we experienced was inspiring because it’s what we wanted our classrooms to be, it was scary because we didn’t exactly know how to get there…Project based learning is an inquiry-based instructional unit in which students learn primarily through investigation and exploration.”

Project Based Learning: Real Questions. Real Answers., Chapter 1

To truly conceptualize what project based learning involves, our first step is to familiarize ourselves with the planning process. We’ll take a look at what goes into the planning of a project based learning experience. We’ll break down this process one step at a time, part by part.

These parts include:

  • Potential starting points
  • Formulating project ideas
  • Deciding on which academic standards to focus
  • Determining what students should understand from the learning
  • Crafting a thought-provoking question to drive the learning
  • Generating learning targets
  • Formative and summative assessment
  • Direct instruction
  • Reflection
  • Publishing
  • Putting it all together
  • How to get started

Tips will be shared to make this entire process more manageable. Everything will be wrapped in a user-friendly planning template that can be used for all grade levels. 

Project Based Learning: Advanced

Building off of Project Based Learning 101, we’ll take a deep dive into specific aspects of project based learning.

Questions we’ll address include:

  • What about conferencing?
    We’ll focus on a clear step-by-step process for giving students goal-oriented feedback during project based learning.
  • What about direct instruction?
    We’ll focus on the three different types of direct instruction (proactive, reactive, learning detours), an explicit framework for delivering mini-lessons, and some of the most common types of extended lessons that are used during project based learning.
  • How do I build a PBL culture?
    We’ll focus on: common mistakes (and how to avoid them), establishing student relationships, teaching students how to collaborate, and laying a foundation toward the beginning of the school year.
  • How do I manage the chaos?
    We’ll focus on: establishing classroom routines, designing flexible learning spaces, finding common denominators (materials that can be distributed to students for every project, regardless of content), and time management strategies.

This session is easily customizable by placing more or less emphasis on certain questions.

Project Based Learning in a Virtual World

Based on our eBook – A Step-By-Step Guide to Project Based Learning in a Virtual World – we’ll explore a streamlined and easy to follow process for implementing projected based learning during distance learning.

This process includes:

  • Potential starting points
  • Formulating project ideas
  • Deciding on which academic standards to focus
  • Generating learning targets
  • Direct instruction
  • Self-assessment
  • Peer assessment
  • Reflection
  • Publishing
  • Putting it all together

We’ll also take a look at (1) how to design a Progress Assessment Tool – our modified (and simplified) version of a rubric that prioritizes feedback and student-centered learning, and (2) creating a one-stop-shop for students (and possibly families) to independently access all project-related resources throughout a project’s duration.

If Not Grades, Then What? 

“In short, whereas the goal of assessment is to improve student learning (think: feedback), grading (or a grade) is generally used to evaluate the current level of performance. From the student’s point of view, assessment says, ‘I want to help you,’ while grading says, ‘I want to judge you.’ We don’t work well when we feel like we’re being judged.”

Project Based Learning: Real Questions. Real Answers., Chapter 2

We’ll use our experiences and some research, and examine why, as much as possible, we should emphasize assessment (not grades) when working with our students. 

We’ll also explore:

  • The differences between assessment and grading
  • What feedback is and is not
  • How to give feedback that is timely, actionable, and goal-oriented
  • How to support student self-assessment
  • How support student peer assessment
  • When formal assessments may be necessary (quizzes and tests)
  • How to design a formal assessment
  • How to grade a project, if necessary

We’ll also take a look at how to design a Progress Assessment Tool – our modified (and simplified) version of a rubric that prioritizes feedback and student-centered learning.

This session can be run with or without project based learning as its focal point.

PBL Paralysis

A bright, thoughtful teacher sits with her lesson plans, and she dreams of engaging her students in authentic, innovative learning. This magnificent idea comes crashing down around her as the feigned fears associated with planning such an experience become overwhelming. We call this feeling: PBL Paralysis. Although project based learning has circulated the education arena for decades, it has yet to breach into mainstream instructional practices. While there are undoubtedly some systemic factors that inhibit this forward motion, countless educators hesitate to implement project based learning due to causes of PBL Paralysis. In this session, we’ll demystify what project based learning is all about by examining PBL Paralysis and some of the main obstacles (and solutions) that typically prevent educators from implementing project based learning.

These obstacles include:

  • The kids I have couldn’t do this…
  • Students have to take the state test…
  • I don’t know what to do while the kids are working…
  • But I need grades…
  • I’m still not ready…

Participants will be inspired and equipped with clear, actionable strategies for moving forward.

Leading Project Based Learning

“In a healthy organization, professional learning and instructional shifts can be led by just about anyone.” 

How Do I Lead Project Based Learning?

Based on Ross’s eBook – How Do I Lead Project Based Learning? – this session isn’t just for those with specific titles, but rather for anyone who is brave enough to lead change. Although this session was originally designed through the lens of project based learning, it provides a blueprint for change that can be applied to any instructional shift, no matter the content.

We’ll explore the four drivers of instructional shifts – the drivers we should always consider when implementing change:

  • Establish relationships and trust
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Model best practice during professional learning
  • Evaluate professional learning

For each one of these drivers we’ll take a look at practical examples based on experiences and research. Participants will be supported in the development of a plan for project based learning implementation in their respective organizations.

Inquiry-Based Learning Demystified 

Inquiry-based learning can be defined as learning that ‘starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios – rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge’ (Fang and Logonnathan, 2016)…Because inquiry can be applied to everyday teaching and not just entire units by means of project based learning, inquiry serves as an entry point for those who want to eventually implement project based learning…and, inquiry is an approach that we can leverage to help form more learner-centered experiences.”

Project Based Learning: Real Questions. Real Answers., Chapter 7

We’ll dive into inquiry’s three entry points – three explicit ways to shift our thinking as we plan inquiry-based experiences for our students:

  • Change the order of instruction – delay direct instruction by using You Do > We Do > I Do instead of I Do > We Do > You Do
  • Bump into – give students a task that will first require them to learn or bump into certain content to be successful
  • Uncover understanding – design scenarios for students to uncover concepts through exploration and aha moments

We’ll also explore how to apply the six drivers of inquiry-based learning – the strategies we should always consider when implementing inquiry-based learning: begin with the end in mind, collaboration, questioning, constraints, productive struggle, and feedback. 

We’ll examine how the entry points and drivers can be applied to different forms of instruction: lessons, activities, performance tasks (shorter projects), and project based learning.

Student Voice & Choice: Relevance, Not Engagement

“Student voice and choice can be the difference between engagement (trying to get students excited about our interests) and relevance (providing opportunities for students to get excited about their interests). While selling students on our interests tends to generate engagement that is oftentimes short-lived, the latter approach starts with the students and prioritizes what makes them unique. As a result, they are the designers or co-designers of relevant learning experiences that tap into their intrinsic motivation.”

Project Based Learning: Real Questions. Real Answers., Introduction

We’ll explore why student voice and choice is so critical, different ways to promote voice and choice across any setting, and specific examples that illustrate how several educators are already incorporating voice and choice into their classrooms. 

Participants will be asked to critically reflect upon their practices and consider the extent to which they’re truly giving students opportunities to take charge of their learning. Participants will also complete an activity that helps to pinpoint how voice and choice can be seamlessly incorporated into previously planned instruction. Strategies learned from this activity and the entire session can be leveraged on an ongoing basis to transfer the ownership of learning to students.