Building a Foundation for Project Based Learning in the Library

For many public school librarians the quest to collaborate with teachers is full of questions.  When do you find time to collaborate?  How can library media specialists connect the varied standards to the lesson?  How do we maintain a balance of teaching, guiding, and assessing during a lesson?  What are the expectations of the library media specialist once the lesson is complete?  How do you promote the work you do inside and outside of the library’s walls?  For this library media specialist, finding the answers to these questions was ongoing.  It was once I learned about project based learning (PBL) that I was able to gain some insight. 

Last year, the idea of project based learning was introduced to me from my coursework.  It was once I was introduced to the philosophy of John Dewey (there’s more to him than just the Dewey Decimal system) I was intrigued by the idea of giving students a chance to work on tasks related to their interest, engage the community, and provide opportunities for learning in a fun way.  I was introduced to other ways of assessment once I viewed the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed: Project Based Learning in the 21st Century.

The documentary highlights the accomplishments of High Tech High.  A charter school in California, High Tech High is a school based on the premise that students learn by doing.  Letter grades are not given to students; instead, within each subject area, students receive information regarding selected units and topics of their teachers.  Based on these units, the students are given a problem to solve or a broad project idea.  After receiving the basic parameters for the project, students (usually in groups) create a project that can be shared to a panel of teachers and then in a public showcase to parents and members of the community.

After viewing the film and completing my research of John Dewey’s educational philosophy, the idea of creating PBL opportunities for my students at Windsor Mill Middle School became a focus for me. I began to ask myself a new set of questions. How could I create opportunities for PBL within the library program?  How could I involve teachers? What role would the community have in the PBL projects?  

I will share information regarding the collaboration and the engagement of students and teachers in another blog post titled, Using PBL to Create a Space for Art in the Library.  


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