‘Grandfather’ of Project-Based Learning, Thom Markham, to Advise on Program Refinements
Thom Markham, an internationally respected education consultant and project-based learning guru, has joined the iLEAD Schools advisory board and will help the nonprofit charter school organization continue to refine its project-based learning programs.
“We’re thrilled to have Dr. Markham coming aboard. His name is synonymous with project-based learning,” said Amber Raskin, co-founder of iLEAD Schools. “His expertise in project based and social-emotional learning is unrivaled. He’s already started helping refine our programs and his involvement will be highly beneficial for our learners.”
Markham, founder and CEO of PBL Global, is a psychologist, educator, author and public speaker (www.thommarkham.com). He is the primary author of two best-selling books on project-based learning, the “Buck Institute for Education’s Handbook on Project Based Learning” and the “Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for Innovation and Inquiry for K-12 Educators,” as well as “Redefining Smart: Awakening Students’ Power to Reimagine Their World.”
“Dr. Markham’s writings are actually used for training facilitators at iLEAD and other institutions that recognize the incomparable value of project-based learning,” Raskin said.
By combining proven methods for designing high-quality, challenging and authentic projects with innovative tools for teaching 21st century skills and strategic school redesign principles, Markham has helped over 250 schools and nearly 5,000 teachers across five continents establish transforming inquiry-based programs.
Having visited several iLEAD locations, Markham said he is impressed by what he saw.
“What stood out was the confidence of our kids — the ability, when you talk to them, they articulate what they are learning and what they are getting out of it,” he said. “That is a rarity and iLEAD is doing that. That level of confidence and engagement is really outstanding. The kids have taken ownership of their learning and their effort. To me that’s huge. It’s inspiring.”
In its eight years of existence, iLEAD’s vision has been to stay ahead of the game in project-based, authentic learning. One way iLEAD creates and sustains rigorous yet meaningful academic programs is staying up-to-date with academic best practices and collaborating with experts in the field of innovative education.
“Many project-based learning schools focus on the core tenets of 21st-century learning, including personalization, authenticity, student-centered inquiry, and deeper learning revolving around a blend of skills with academic content,” Markham said. “However, PBL teachers often find themselves constrained by the legacy of the past, either by continuing to place higher value on content mastery than skills, or by
teaching skills without addressing the underlying child development practices that foster healthy, skillful adults. In this regard, iLEAD Schools has broken new ground for PBL and emerged as a leading network that advocates — and practices — an integrative ‘whole child’ model incorporating service, social-emotional learning, and true personalization.”
Markham said he will be focusing on refining the iLEAD education model so it can be efficiently replicated at multiple locations, and developing year-round professional development programs for iLEAD facilitators.
“The refinements are in best practices, to make sure those are fully implemented and that the PBL is high quality,” Markham said. “We are going to build out the PBL model to really fully integrate social-emotional learning and refine the model. iLEAD has a successful model and it’s working really well but there are some refinements we can make.”
Markham is working with the iLEAD project-based learning team to develop a “boot camp” for new iLEAD teachers, and will be meeting periodically with iLEAD facilitators and the project-based learning team to continue refining the program and moving it forward.
“I feel very proud to be associated with iLEAD. The iLEAD model is ahead of the times,” Markham said. “I love the impulse and direction and energy that is driving the schools.”
Dawn Evenson, co-founder of iLEAD, said the admiration is mutual.
“Thom Markham is a perfect fit for iLEAD,” said Evenson, who reached out to Markham a few months ago to gauge his interest in working with iLEAD. “His expertise in project-based and social-emotional learning will benefit our learners for many years to come. The value he brings to our programs cannot be overstated.”
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