McGrath - Equity Revisited
I am a big proponent of project-based learning. I always feel that students are the most connected to their learning in situations where they are working toward a clear goal or product. I also feel that rubrics and authentic assessments seem to have the most impact for students. They pay closer attention to the result than when it is just a letter grade that doesn't hold a lot of information for them.
This notion of 21st century skills is an interesting one. I believe that the new skills of the future are different than the traditional skills we have been teaching. I agree with the skills laid out by McGrath. I think that many educators and administrators are fearful to make the leap to a new set of standards or skills. What if they are wrong? What if the public doesn't understand? What if it has catastrophic effects on high stakes tests? I actually think that failing schools are going to be the proving grounds of these new skills. What do they have to lose? They are already failing. Successful schools (based on testing and public perception) feel that they don't need to change. Why change a good thing. Until they see themselves as failing, they will not be willing to make the leap to a new curriculum.
That being said, there are pockets of successful project based learning and 21st century skill instruction in many school districts. The key is moving toward all classrooms all the time.
As for the idea that PBL challenges all kids to achieve at a high level, I agree with this to a degree. Projects are easily adapted so that kids of different abilities or skill sets can complete the assignment to their best ability. However, while the assignments are easy to adapt, the challenge is still learning the abilities of the students. While PBL is motivating, not all students are self-motivated, even in the best of circumstances. With students being more self directed, the teacher must monitor carefully to ensure that students are working to their potential.