This week was a busy one that’s for sure. I can’t believe how much I learned in a short amount of time. As the week draws to a close I managed to come up with a project idea, a driving question (or two), 10+ sub questions, and a visual plan to boot! I have decided to call my PBL project: Heroes Rise. To me, the title reaffirms the idea that each us has the potential to become an everyday hero, or at the very least be able to recognize one in our community. Similarly, it supports the idea that we can create our own hero and share this creation with a public audience. Hopefully the driving question supports these ideas too.

Driving Question: Why do we revere heroes in our society?

The majority of this week’s learning focuses on driving questions. These questions are tricky little devils. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good challenge. And this assignment was definitely a challenge and a half… But I am not sure if my question meets the expectations of PBL. What if my question, perish the thought, is merely an essential question?! Miller (2011) explains that PBL involves three types of questions: philosophical or debatable, product-oriented, and role-oriented. He also states that “driving questions are just essential questions that are high on caffeine” (Miller, August 24, 2011). This means the question needs to be good enough not only to hook the student but to engage her as well. Philosophical questions interest me; however will such questions capture the student’s interest as well? That’s the six million dollar question isn’t it?! Like Miller says these questions are “the hardest part of PBL” and they unusually involve “many drafts” (Miller, August 17, 2011). As I write this reflection I am tempted to rewrite the question–again.

[Aside] Perhaps, “Should we revere heroes in our society?” is a better question. It might seem more “debatable”. What do you think? How about this one: “Why is hero-worship so popular in our society?”

Larmer and Olabuenaga (2013) recommend putting your question to the test. Is it Google-able? Can it be answered in ten minutes or less? If so, it’s back to the drawing board for you! My question passed the test but left me wondering are the second and third questions better? (see Aside) Miller (August 17, 2011) recommends testing your question on your students. I like that idea—it’s practical!


Although writing driving questions is challenging, I do like the fact that philosophical questions may not be answered solely by the products or activities planned. In fact, the products associated with your driving question usually do not answer the question directly (Larmer and Olabuenaga, 2013). This means students must use the products (and the process associated with each one) to help them explore the question and all the ideas that accompany it. Exploration is important if students are going truly grasp important concepts. A lot of PBL articles mention that reflection on the learning is necessary if “real” learning is to occur, especially when PBL is compared to lecturing or rote memorization.  Larmer and Olabuenaga (2013) believe that philosophical questions require reflection to ensure that the question is not only understood but is also fully answered. ELA outcomes support self-reflection as well so this approach makes sense.

With the first product, I want the students to be able to explore what a hero is and what traits he or she should possess. I also want them to be able to compare types of heroes as well as consider audience preferences. The first inquiry product (an expository group presentation) will definitely support exploration!  Furthermore, a jigsaw like activity should allow students to pursue their interests but also explore other avenues by viewing/listening to others’ presentations.

The next two products encourage the students to tell two completely different types of stories: one about a real hero and another about an imaginary hero. I like the fact that these two types of writing will allow students to experience real life writing as well. Likewise, each type of storytelling requires students to “exercise” unique skills in order to get the job done.

PBL & Organization

This course, in many ways, mimics PBL because our weekly assignments guide us through PBL process. We are answering the question: What is PBL? Recently, I learned that being organized is an essential skill because a PBL project will not work if a teacher and her students are not focused and on task. Students need to know where it all leads and teachers need to show them the way. This week we experimented with online visual organizers in order to plan our project. Visual organizers let the user see what puzzle pieces are present and which ones are missing. I have used bubbl.us and mindomo before but I must say popplet is very user-friendly. Viewing my peers’ organizers also made it clear that one tool doesn’t work for everyone. Choice is important. This means we must do the same for our students. That is why I provided different types of organizers on my project’s tools and resources page!


Larmer, J., and Olabuenaga, G. (September 14, 2013) Driving questions. BIE. Retrieved from http://bie.org/object/webinars_archived/driving_questions

Miller, A. (August 17, 2011) How to write effective driving questions for project-based learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-how-to-write-driving-questions-andrew-miller

Miller, A. (August 24, 2011) How to refine driving questions for effective project-based learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-how-to-refine-driving-questions-andrew-miller