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SPS Project Based Learning for Long-Term Success

SPS Project Based Learning for Long-Term Success
Posted on 11/30/2023
pbl one imageSalina Public Schools (SPS) is working on its strategic plan through a focus on teacher training. The end goal is clear: to ensure student success. How are we making this happen? Through a commitment to developing students who are able to take control of their own learning and progress.
"Project based learning" (PBL) is a key teaching approach teachers are learning through professional development. This strategy is student-centered. It encourages students to take ownership of their education and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“My favorite part of PBL is hearing students use their voice,” shared Kristen Fox, South High School math teacher. “In Algebra I, students chose between three businesses to invest their money in. They had to think about the financial, ethical and social implications before making a choice. They worked with other students and thought about math in new ways. At the end of the project, the students could defend their choice with reasoning.”
Students have the opportunity for deeper dives into the subject matter. Teachers facilitate deeper exploration as students build on their content knowledge.
“PBL allows students to think independently while working with partners or in small groups to achieve a common learning goal,” said Laurie Doll, Lakewood Middle School reading teacher. “Students can sharpen their critical thinking as well as communication skills. They increase their knowledge about a topic of interest (often involving community or others in the school) in an effort to become a more successful learner.”

More than 270 SPS teachers have already received training in PBL, with additional sessions planned for January 2024. The district’s focus on three major skill areas for student learning (communication, critical thinking and social-emotional) resulted from over 3,000 comments collected in 2020. During several open meetings, community members shared ideas, asked questions and talked about what they wanted from their schools. 
The district’s 2022 phone survey confirmed that the three goals are still important to the Salina community. Ninety-nine percent of the survey participants considered the goals to be very relevant or somewhat relevant. “Feedback about the goals and priorities help keep the district aligned with community expectations,” explained Linn Exline, superintendent. “Salina Public Schools belongs to the community.”
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