Why ALE | Examples | Strategies | LibrariesArticles

Authentic Learning Experiences (ALE) and Project Based Learning (PBL) are highly effective means to engage learners into content by giving contextual purpose to the real world beyond the school walls. Here are resources to guide your visioning of implementation. These resources are based on my extensive experience successfully guiding and leading staff to effective ALE/PBL development. –John McCarthy, Ed.S.

Highlighted Resource: Checklist for Management Components for Innovative Practices

Authentic Learning Experiences

  1. Authenticity = Lifelong Learners
    Authentic Learning practices are a necessary part of of learning. Here is a framework to help teachers thinking as they plan learning experiences.
  2. 4 Paths to Engaging Students: Authentic Purpose = Audience
    Edutopia Article and OP Article
    Step Two is deciding on the Authentic Purpose for applying the learning outcomes. These two articles explain a powerful way to connect real world purpose to content.
  3. The Top Ten Ways to Fake an Authentic Classroom
  4. PBL: What Does It Take for a Project to Be “Authentic”?
  5. 3 Degrees of Connecting to a Real World Audience
    A common request is how to find community members, organizations, experts, mentors, and clients. Here is a strategy used by a group, department, or whole staff to generate a list of networks. Also, keep in mind that another solution is to send out a short survey to parents. Find out their skills and experiences that they have to offer.
  6. 21st Century Skills Anchor Charts for Behavioral Norms

What is PBL?

  1. PBL Videos in Action:
    Review this playlist of PBL in action in a variety of K-12 settings.
  2. PBL: Jumping in Headfirst by Matt Weyer and Jen Dole
    A school year long series about year one PBL implementation
  3. Framework for High Quality PBL
  4. PBL types –

Project Libraries

Project Development

  1. Step One of Designing a PBL unit
    Begin with unpacking the key standards for concepts and skills. Keeping the End in Mind, what is that students should know, understand, and be able to do?

  2. Driving Questions (DQ) Development
    A DQ or Challenge statement is at the heart of an effective PBL unit. It should happen once the previous steps are accomplished. Review these articles for effective crafting of your DQ.

  3. Create a Student Learning Wall
    (Learn more) aka Project or ALE Walls
    This tool is key to daily communication and support of learning for students.


  1. 3 Guidelines to Eliminating Assessment Fog
  2. Seven Keys to Effective Feedback
  3. How Am I Doing?
  4. Rubrics
    1. BIE: Rubric on Rubrics
    2. NTN: Content Thinking & 21st Century Rubrics
      View these Checklists to teach Collaboration


  1. Need to Know Process:
  2. Entry Events
    These are critical to launching a PBL unit that engages and inspires students to care about the learning journey. Here are some resources to help launch a powerful start to a PBL unit.

  3. Key Elements for Success
    Checklist for Management Components for Innovative Practices

Managing ALE/PBL units

  1. Overview of Key Management Components Check List
  2. Student Learning Wall Guide: Empowering Student Voice
  3. Forming Teams – using student information. Learning Profile Cards is a strategy that helps to build student teams based on information shared by student perception data about how they learn.
  4. Team Building Activities
    Help teams learn how to work together, collaborate and communicate effectively. After completion, ask: “What were the qualities and skills you used to be successful at this task?” In addition to the examples in the link above: is a library of team building activities.
  5. The Mediation Process – Empower students to solve problems within their team without needing assistance by the teacher.
  6. Sample contracts and other PBL resources
    Students need to establish work agreements for how they will work together as a team. Contracts that they create–wholly or in parts–helps develop buy-in.

Managing the Learning Process

Cultivating Student Voice and Engagement

  1. Teachers Are in Control: Myth-Busting DI, Part 4
  2. Activating Student Voice Empowers Learning
  3. Igniting Student Engagement: A Roadmap for Learning

Instructional Practices that Support PBL

  1. Article Reads for Differentiation
  2. Fostering Inquiry throughout a PBL unit
  3. Quality Instruction + Differentiation: Beyond the Checklist
    Eliminate the Student Checklist Mentality by making instruction transparent.

Instructional Use of Technology to Support PBL units

  1. 100+ Tools for Differentiating Instruction Through Social Media
  2. List of Education Twitter Chats
  3. QR Code Maker
  4. Fluid Math Tools and Apps
  5. SAMR video playlist

Additional References

  1. Research documents regarding PBL
  2. Resources Access  on PBL by BIE
  3. Resources Access on PBL by TeachThought
  4. Supporting Student Self-Regulated Learning in Problem- and Project-Based Learning (View abstract)
  5. Math Webinars

Why ALE | Examples | Strategies | LibrariesArticles