Project Lead the Way(PLTW) is a project-based STEM curriculum with three strands that span grades K-12: computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. The curriculum is packaged into modules and each module guides students through the Project Lead the Way Design Process: Ask, Explore, Model, Evaluate, and Explain.
To earn this microcredential you will need to collect and submit two sets of evidence demonstrating your effective use of the Project Lead the Way curriculum. You will also complete a short written or video reflective analysis.
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Project Lead the Way is not an open source curriculum or a model for instructional practice that can be freely adapted to a set of curriculum standards. It is a proprietary curriculum where the company develops, distributes, and manages all aspects including teacher training, course design and content, instructional apps and technology, and most of the consumable supplies used in hands-on projects and design challenges.
An effective Project Lead the Way teacher has an in-depth understanding of PLTW's proprietary approach to project-based learning called APB which stands for Activity, Project, Problem. The APB scaffolds student learning. It begins with a series of activities that develop essential knowledge and skills, progresses to projects where students apply their knowledge, and culminates in an open-ended design challenge where students develop solutions to real world problems. Within each of these elements, the teacher employs the PLTW Design Process to direct student thinking, organize student tasks, and assess student learning.
Project-based learning: Project-based learning is an instructional methodology where students learn from experience. It primarily differs from traditional instruction in how the term "project "is interpreted. In traditional instruction, students apply what they have already learned through lecture, videos, worksheets, and other means to complete an end-of-unit project. In project-based learning, students learn the material by completing the project. Project Lead the Way provides a project-based curriculum that is intended to teach rigorous, standards-based content; requires critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication; includes inquiry as part of the learning process; is organized around an open-ended driving question; creates a "need to know" context for learning essential knowledge and skills; invites student voice and choice; includes processes for revision and reflection; and is intended for a public audience.
A second grade teacher wants students to understand how human needs and wants and engineering are related. The teacher wants students to make a connection between the problems that humans face and the solutions that engineers design. The teacher also wants the students to understand that engineers often look to nature for inspiration and ideas for how to solve human problems. The teacher selects the Launch module Animal Adaptations.
In the module, the students are first presented with the problem of preparing a traveler for a visit to an extreme environment of their choice. As engineers, the students will be tasked with designing the ideal shoe for this traveler in an extreme environment. Students study plant and animal adaptations to help them make choices about how to prepare their traveler and how to design their shoe.
Students read a story that describes why different animals have different outer coverings, or coats, specially adapted to help them live in their environment. Students learn what it means for an organism to be adapted to its environment and begin to learn how different adaptations are categorized. They study adaptations for protection, camouflage, food, and locomotion. The students explore five different environments: the Arctic, the African Savanna, the Sahara Desert, the Pacific Ocean, and the Amazon Rainforest. They investigate organisms that live in these extreme environments and document the adaptations for each organism.
In the open-ended design challenge, students combine their knowledge of the adaptations with their knowledge of the extreme environment to prepare their traveler and to design their shoe. While working through the design challenge, the teacher helps students to apply the PLTW design process:
Ask – define the problem
Explore – look at possible ways to solve a problem
Model – building a solution
Evaluate – how well did the model solve the problem
Explain – sharing design, results of testing
Ask – How can my model be improved?
Video: Submit a video in length from 5 to 8 minutes that reflects on the teacher's ability to implement the Project Lead the Way project-based curriculum including any of the following: a) establishing the context for the unit of study and/or introducing the problem to be solved b) reviewing materials, supplies, and resources available to students as part of the unit c) establishing the criteria for the student process, product, or project that are derived from standards d) establishing classroom norms and procedures e) encouraging student voice and choice including identification of real-world issues and problems students want to address e) scaffolding instruction that provides content on a need to know basis and is guided by student questions f) providing direction or activities that improve student collaboration g) modeling of management tools such as the PLTW Launch Logs or Engineering Design Notebooks and additional calendars, project work reports, work logs, or rubrics h) use of effective questioning strategies that help students to reflect on their learning, clarify their understanding, or extend thinking to multiple subject areas or real life applications; i) providing effective feedback to encourage revision of student process and design choices.
Student Work: Submit three examples of student work that is produced as the student completes the Project Lead the Way module. These may be drawn, photocopied, photographed or video taped. These may include design plans, design iterations, data charts, reflective entries in the student's Launch Logs or engineering design notebooks, models, student presentations, and student products. Products may include any artifact produced by students such as maps, models, programs, games, and apps. May also include teacher added extensions such as collaborative work rubrics, time management tools, historical perspective or real life application reports or activities, or various science and math extensions.
Lesson Plan: Submit a lesson plan that reflects understanding of the APB approach to project-based learning. The lesson plan should indicate whether it is for an Activity, Project, or Problem and how the lesson fits within the entire APB framework. The lesson plan should include identification of key knowledge (what students should know) including vocabulary and identification of key skills (what students should be able to do); essential resources and anticipation of additional resources to meet student needs; essential materials and supplies necessary for students to complete investigations, build models, and create products; questions that guide student learning (reflect, clarify, and extend); standards addressed from multiple disciplines (science, math, language arts, social studies) as well as indicators of learning for 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving); extensions to real world applications and careers; and plans for assessment of student learning.
Testimonial: Submit a written, video taped, or audio recording of a testimonial from a student or parent of a student who has completed a Project Lead the Way module, discussing the specific module and how it affected the student's learning, the student's competency with technology, the student's ability to solve problems, the student's ability to collaborate, the student's interest in science, math, or engineering, the student's choice of career or career path, the student's sense of self (efficacy, esteem), the student's relationships with other students, or other relevant topics
Observation Results: Submit observation results conducted by peers and/or administrators reflecting your ability effectively and consistently employ strategies appropriate for project-based learning. Specifically the teacher is able to differentiate instructional strategies for activities, projects, and open-ended design problems. The teacher may use techniques of direct instruction during initial activities but gradually redirects the level and type of instructional support as students progress through the module. The teacher noticeably transitions from a role of center stage subject authority to facilitator or coach and displays many of the the following practices. The teacher directs student thinking away from finding the correct answer to inquiry, investigation, discovery, and exploration. The teacher honors student voice and choice. The teacher allows students to struggle as they work through a problem to be solved. The teacher allows students to fail in the first iterations of designs. The teacher does not begin instruction with a lecture but rather shares knowledge with students as the need to know arises. The teacher has adequate background knowledge to support student inquiry and has adequate skills with technical tools that students use to design, build, or improve processes, models, and products. The teacher encourages critical thinking and revision through the use of questions. The teacher refers to the Project Lead the Way Design Process to direct student thinking, to organize student effort, and to encourage self-reflection and assessment.
Candidate's Choice: Submit another type of evidence that does not appear on this list. This evidence should demonstrate your effective and consistent use of the Project Lead the Way curriculum
Candidates are required to make 2 evidence submission(s).
Project Lead the Way: Evidence Criterion 1: Evidence demonstrates that the teacher is familiar with the structure of Project Lead the Way modules, understands and adheres to the APB instructional approach, and differentiates the level of instructional support for activities, projects, and open-ended design problems.
Criterion 2: Evidence demonstrates that the teacher is familiar with the Project Lead the Way design process, uses the PLTW design process to structure student learning within the activities, projects, and open-ended design problems, and facilitates the use of the PLTW design process by students.
Criterion 3: Evidence demonstrates that the teacher is familiar with instructional practices that are specific to STEM such as trans-disciplinary integration, connection to real world problems, and connections to careers.
Describe how the implementation of the PLTW module worked in your classroom. Was this your first experience with project-based learning? How does project-based learning contrast with traditional methods such as direct instruction? Keeping these specific contrasts in mind, what problems did you encounter that surprised you? What successes did you experience that surprised you? How did your students benefit from the PLTW module?
Reflect on any of the following that you may have experienced and that may have been challenging for you: honoring student voice and choice, specifically allowing students to suggest and pursue individualized paths of study; allowing students to struggle as they worked through a problem to be solved; allowing students to struggle as they worked through an open-ended design challenge that did not have a "correct" answer, allowing students to fail in the first iterations of designs; encouraging students to explore, discover, and investigate answers rather than providing them; having adequate background knowledge to guide students; having adequate skills with technical tools that could be leveraged to improve student processes and products.
How did you feel in the role as a facilitator or coach rather than as the sole content expert? Were you comfortable or uncomfortable? How could you improve?
Project Lead the Way: Reflection Criterion 1: The reflective analysis indicates an understanding of the differences between traditional methods of direct instruction and project-based learning in design, planning, content delivery (scaffolding and need-to-know contexts,) management, and assessment. The teacher is able to identify at least 3 key contrasts.
Criterion 2: The reflective analysis indicates that the teacher is aware of the importance of key practices of Project-Based Learning that relate to student autonomy: honoring student voice and choice including identification of real-world issues and problems that students want to address in projects and design challenges; encouraging students to construct meaning through investigation that is personally relevant and culturally inclusive; allowing students to struggle with problem-solving and open-ended design challenges; and allowing students to fail in design iterations (that it is okay to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.)
Criterion 3: The reflective analysis indicates that the teacher can identify his/her strengths as a facilitator as well as his/her weaknesses and can identify areas for improvement.
American Society of Engineering Education http://teachers.egfi-k12.org/ This site is sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education. The site includes lesson plans and activities, links to competitions, and produces a newsletter to help teachers stay current with news in the world of engineering.
Discover Engineering http://www.discovere.org/ Discover engineering is a great website for student exploration and inspiration. Students learn about complex problems solved through engineering and about the people who make it happen.
Project Lead the Way https://www.pltw.org/ All Project Lead the Way Professional Development opportunities are coordinated through the the Project Lead the Way website. In addition to courses that are required to become a credentialed Project Lead the Way classroom teacher, Project Lead the Way also offers elective grade level resource training. Informal professional development is provided through a selection of blogs written by practicing teachers that showcase how PLTW has influenced their community, school, and individual students.
SAE Foundation http://saefoundation.org/Programs/Educational-Programs SAE offers a K-12 STEM program called "A World In Motion." SAE connects project-based learning with real-world engineering design and manufacturing and involves industry professionals in the classroom. This is an excellent choice for teachers looking to continue Project Based Learning beyond the PLTW Modules.
The Buck Institute for Education http://www.bie.org/ The Buck Institute is devoted to showing teachers how to use Project Based Learning in all grade levels and subject areas. The Buck Institute creates, gathers, and shares high-quality PBL instructional practices, resources, and products for teachers, schools, and districts. The resource section provides excellent rubrics to aid in the assessment of student learning as well as teacher implementation of project-based-learning.