When I first talked to Sean Couch from the JW Couch Foundation, we immediately connected on what it takes to design and execute projects and Project-Based Learning (PBL) units that are comprehensive and interdisciplinary. And we both realized that the units we put together at Portfolio would be useful for educators at large: for schools that are trying to implement PBL, for teachers who are interested in using parts of it in their classrooms, and for home-schoolers who would love to have a platform where they can use these comprehensive units at home.
There’s a mounting body of research showing that PBL helps students learn not only academic skills in a much deeper way, but also enduring (or “soft skills”) like perseverance, empathy, creativity and other critical social-emotional skills.
Knowing that PBL works is one thing. Putting it into practice is quite another. And often when creating a PBL curriculum the biggest hurdle that teachers and homeschool educators face is, not surprisingly, the design of high-quality projects. Designing rich, interdisciplinary, and measurable projects is a daunting task. And many teachers will either not have the relevant expertise or enough planning time to design and implement high-quality projects.
This is how “Project ScaleUp” was born. With the support of the JW Couch Foundation, we will create an online platform that will help teachers design and implement high-quality projects.
At Portfolio, we educate our teachers on how to design and implement projects. Part of this teacher training is to review the PBL units we’ve run in the past as a way to guide our future work. It also helps us to document these projects so that we can keep improving on them and know what all is covered from year to year. With all this documentation and review of projects, we already have a great starting point for Project ScaleUp, that is, a growing body of successfully implemented projects and a project design process for teachers to use and learn.
Through Project ScaleUp teachers will be able to search for project “maps” according to different topics and grade levels, and even modify them for their students. The library of quality project maps will thus grow as each new customized project (which has been successfully implemented) is uploaded to the platform.
With this partnership with JW Couch, we have a great opportunity to benefit a larger community of educators, thus fulfilling Portfolio’s larger vision of influencing the overall education landscape.