Embedding PBL in Ireland

We have been honored and privileged to partner with a school in Ireland Limerick ETSS. This partnership has for the first time, brought Project Based Learning to the beautiful green island in a meaningful impactful way. Their journey is new to their country, but their process mirrors so many schools, districts and organizations here in the United States.  They have encountered the same challenges of: 

  • How do we implement real world authentic learning to impact our community? 
  • How do we sustain our work across time?
  • How do we shift our professional learning from “designing” to full implementation as we scale in size?

Our week at Limerick ETSS was designed and built around answering these questions and shifting the culture to collective efficacy with staff. To do this, we developed a 5 day in person professional learning with the leadership of Limerick ETSS. We structured our week meeting with different departments in a 1:1 setting, classroom observations and the most exciting, talking with learners!

The staff of Limerick ETSS has embraced building clarity in their project design. Starting 4 months earlier, the staff made a decision to make agreements and consistency in making learning intentions and success criteria visible for learners. Within those 4 months, it was exciting to see so many different iterations of the implementation of various strategies. 

To start the process, the leadership was intentional that in every classroom they were building the language of learning in connections to their projects. It was clear and evident that not only was the goal of their projects to build clarity in learning, but also to link the learning to authentic real world experiences.

As an example, in Maths (that is not a typo), they were making real world calculations in the moment on how fast cars were going using the distance traveled and time to travel that distance. In addition, students have to self reflect in the moment on the accuracy of their data all done as it hailed!

Teachers were intentional in building clarity through conversation with learning, connecting the goal of the daily lesson to the success criteria. In each classroom, there were visuals on the board and on their iPads could connect the success criteria to their overall goals of the project.

Then there was the voice of learners. One of my favorite parts of this job is the ability to talk with learners from all over. Do they know where they are at in their learning? Can they make connections to the world around them? Do they have confidence in their learning?  YES!

Students continuously made connections to what the current task was and how it was connecting back to the success criteria and their overall learning intention of the project. This learner was connecting the Surface Level task and then the Deep Level task. He was then able to discuss next steps and what would be Transfer in their project. 

A week with the leadership and staff of Limerick ETSS was very powerful. The leadership and staff have been intentional in connecting the learning with the authentic connections in their overall outcomes of their school. It was evident that students could connect their learning to various authentic contexts in their local community. 

To sustain their work, they needed to make the shift from focusing on design of the project to sustaining their work. As the school continues to scale, there will always be a need to learn how to design and calibrate around their work. However, as they are beginning to Transfer their designs into the learning classroom, we worked on moving back to Surface level knowledge and various tasks to engage learners and build student voice around authenticity. 

As their Principal Eoin Shinners continually stated, “This work is hard, but it is worth it to make an impact on our community and make learning relevant for our students.” As a school, their tagline is “leading learning.” I can say that the work their school is doing is doing just that! This is a celebration of all the leaders, teachers and students of Limerick ETSS and their journey!

I would encourage all who read to follow them on twitter to keep up to date on all the great work they are doing! @EtssLimerick

To learn more about how the Center for Excellence can create a similar journey and support for your staff, send us an email!

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