When Anne Robinson, the instructional coach at Gompers Charter School in San Diego approached me, she was hoping her teachers could develop projects that better connected students with the surrounding community.

The major challenge was that teachers had no prior training in leading these kinds of experiences…

Teachers also feared that developing these projects would detract from their core mission: achieving high academic results that ensured college placement. Knowing that buy-in from all teachers would require proven success with PBL, we chose five eager teachers and 100 students in the 10th-grade team to receive the training.

Our training began by laying the foundation for success. Through six short professional development (PD) sessions, we explored sample projects, discussed effective design and assessment, and equipped teachers with the tools to design a high-quality project that both addressed academic standards, and connected their students to the community. Teachers felt so empowered and confident through the training, that they decided to transform two of their classrooms into a professional production theatre!

How PBL transformed practice for teachers with no theater experience!

Their project would transform students into playwrights and producers; writing scripts, designing sets, and working under the mentorship of two retired film producers to deliver a play for the community around the devastating impact of drugs. We coached the core group of five teachers involved through the entire process; helping them manage teams, scaffold assessments and learning, and help students be more engaged and reflective.

On production day, with over 300 attendees, these five teachers watched anxiously from the back of the theater. It was their students’ time to shine. When the curtains dropped, the entire audience was on their feet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building.

But what about the academic impact?

The play not only brought to light an important issue within the community; it also helped students improve their speaking, writing and reading skills. As a result, the whole high school teaching staff wanted on board!

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Anne Robinson

Instructional coach at Gompers Charter School, San Diego

“My teachers gained tremendous insight through Kyle’s training course and coaching by pushing past our comfort zones and providing students with a deeper level of engagement, rigor, active learning, and critical thinking.”