Deeper Learning Lab Podcast

The Seven Oaks School Division Post Baccalaureate Cohort in Inquiry is currently engaged in a course entitled Project-based Learning Theory. In the fall, the group completed Topics in Experiential Education, and as such, have a firm foundational understanding of experience and design. In PBL theory, we have been exploring PBL as a container for deeper learning. You can check out the podcast below to see how our thinking is taking shape. (We will be adding podcasts every few days.)

Episode 1 — Collaboration is the Key

Episode 2 — Distilling PBL

Episode 3 — PBL in the Early Years

Episode 4 – PBL & Secondary Maths

Episode 5 — The Laminating Room

Episode 6 — PBL and Inclusion

Project-based Learning Theory Course 2019

In January of 2019, I will be facilitating a theory course on Project-based learning at the University of Winnipeg as part of the Post Baccalaureate programme. This will be followed by the PBL Applied course in Spring 2019. The description is below:


I have had several people contact me regarding how the course will unfold, so I thought I would post this note as a means to clarify some of the details.

Online Format

This is an online course that is live. We will meet on Tuesdays (beginning January 8th, 2018) from 5:30 pm until 8:30 pm CST via Zoom. While each session will be recorded, members of the group are responsible for attending every Tuesday night. This is not an online course that is static. The advantage of this format is that it provides greater access for more participants while still bringing people together for rich and authentic conversations about how and why we learn. (It also means no winter travel on sketchy roads in the dark.)

Each week, we will engage in readings, guests speakers, virtual field trips, and project work. Participants will be asked to design a project that they can reflect upon throughout the course. Participants will be asked to think, read, listen, write, and speak about the theoretical underpinnings of PBL and about their own practice.

We will use Edmodo as a means for housing our online discussions and course documentation.

Rationale for course

As project-based learning schools become more and more part of the pedagogical mainstream in North America, the need for teacher education in is this area is paramount. While project-based learning can be a powerful platform for authentic learning, transformation, and growth, the danger is that project work is merely activities, teacher-led, or not rigorous. With several PBL schools in Winnipeg, and a desire at all levels, including higher education, to pursue meaningful and educative experiences for learners, a theoretical course on PBL is essential.

This course is designed to offer practitioners a foundational understanding of the evolution of PBL, while examining what we deem an educative experience.  Learners will look at a variety of critical issues related to the success of PBL and how PBL manifests itself in various contexts.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, learners will:

  • Have explored a variety of different theoretical models of project-based learning
  • Will have entered into dialogical discourse as to what is meant by an experience
  • Be able to articulate the foundations of project-based learning
  • Have conducted an inquiry project whereby they pose a research question, offer an argument, and provide evidence for their rationale
  • Articulate how they would theoretically employ project-based learning principles into their own practice
  • Describe the process of introducing learners to projects and guide learners to propose and carry out these projects
  • Be able to discuss a variety of assessment practices and tools used in project-based learning.

Assigned Readings

Boss, S., Larmer, J. & Mergendoller, J. (2015). Setting the standard for project-based learning: A proven approach to classroom instruction. Alexandria: ASCD.

Roberts, J. (2012). Beyond Learning by doing: theoretical currents in experiential education. New York: Routledge.

Related Readings/Bibliography

Bassey, M. (2010). Education for the rest of the world: An illustration of John Dewey’s principles of continuity and interaction. Educational Studies, 36(1), 13-20.

Dewey, J. (1933). Dewey outlines utopian schools. Retrieved from:

Dewey, J. (1938). Education and experience. New York: The MacMillan Company.

Dewey, J. (2008). Democracy and education. Project Gutenberg eBook, retrieved from:

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: The Seabury Press.

Glass, R. (2001). On Paulo Freire’s philosophy of praxis and foundations for liberation education. Educational Researcher, 30(2), 15-25.

Hassan, S. (2013) Guiding high school students through applied internship projects in college environments: A MET School story. Education Canada Retrieved from:

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling society. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning : Experience as the source of learning and development. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Larmer, J. & Mergendoller, J. (2010). Seven essentials for project-based learning. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 34-37.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pearson, G. (2012). Success, but slowly, as MET School redefines learning. Education Canada, 52(5), 37.

Senge, P. (2012). Creating schools for the future, not the past for all students. Leader to leader, 65, 44-49.

Zull, J. (2002). The Art of changing the brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Solar Powered Learning

Photo from Rona

My friends and I had one of those ideas; the kind that starts at lunch or coffee and leads to something strange. Heather Ragot and Craig Campbell, two teachers at SJR who I see as master teachers, and myself are trying to create an experience for our Grade 9 students.

Let me step back. A few months ago I acquired a grant to place solar panels on top of my classroom. It was one of those ideas inspired by a ski, a late night snack, or a restroom break: What if? At the time, I didn’t really know anything about solar energy and the viability of it in a place like Manitoba where energy is so cheap because of the abundance of hydro electricity. The first thing I did was consult my good friend Mike Phelan, who is the owner of a business called Rogue Machines – it’s an engineering and design firm. I have known Mike since I was 15 and trust his judgement in this area. My good friend Dave Hill, my former water polo coach who now lives off the grid in Ontario, also chimed in. Here’s the conversation on Facebook:

 So this was of great help and I am grateful for having friends like Mike and Dave – a testament to the close community that is Winnipeg. In any event, I passed on the project to one of my Grade 12 students who was interested in doing some research for his Praxis Project in Global Issues. But my wheels continued to spin. I started to think of the big questions related to alternative energy and our addiction to energy itself. I heard this great broadcast on the CBC from Cape Breton Island about a couple living off the gird, and it inspired me. What if we could teach off the grid?

I knew I couldn’t do this alone, so I started to bug Craig and Heather – the two master teachers at SJR who I respect dearly. Craig teaches Science, mostly Physics, and Heather teaches English Language Arts. They are two of the most committed teachers I have ever met. Heather and I had already been collaborating since September as we both teach the same group of kids for English and Social Studies. When I approached her about doing a holistic study of energy, we immediately knew that Craig had to be involved, given his energy and the fact that he teaches the same group of kids.

From there, the ideas began to flow. In January, Craig will start teaching the kids about the Science behind solar energy and electricity itself. These students will help my Grade 12 student actually install the panels and batteries and navigate the logistics.

Heather is going to start reading Lord of the Flies with the students and have them start to investigate our relationship with the biosphere and all systems on earth. She will then take the students through the process of writing a research paper in order for the students to start looking at alternative energy, energy policy, and current debates. The students will gain research skills, an understanding of APA formatting, and a thorough knowledge of issues related to energy production and consumption.

From my end, I will start investigating democracy in Canada with the students. The end goal will be a mock parliament whereby students from different political parties attempt to create a national energy policy. I am super excited about this.

Craig Campbell 

Our hope from this project is that students will gain an ecological literacy through a systems thinking and multidisciplinary approach. My hypothesis is that the students will develop a deeper understanding of the science, an appreciation of the political realities when developing policy, an understanding of the need for civil disobedience (Idle No More), and gain some tremendous skills. From my end, I get to learn, plan, assess, and hang out with some pretty cool colleagues.

Please let us know, via the comment thread, about things you have done that might help us or similar projects that you have done. We would love to learn (rip you off) from you and hear your stories.

To be continued…