Improving Project Designing with Business Partners

This action research study sought to discover whether the level of rigor and relevance of student projects in high school career technical pathways could be improved through individual coaching of teachers on effective collaboration with industry partners to co-design projects. Coaching also included professional development on the elements of high-quality project-based learning and in real time, use of a project planning and implementation template, a project rubric, and a guide for working with partners. Five career technical education teachers participated in this project, including teachers in the fields of environmental science, engineering, and health professions. Coaching began with discussion of past projects that these teachers had done, in order to establish a baseline. Evaluation was based on a Buck Institute rubric on essential elements of project-based learning. After professional development on collaborative project design, observations of the teacher interacting with the partner were debriefed, and coaching continued as needed. Final projects were evaluated with the BIE rubric, and satisfaction with the project and collaboration process through interviews of the teacher and industry partner. The results of the study indicated that the intervention supported teachers’ growth in the area of project design and effective collaboration with an outside partner in the field of study. Projects were more rigorous and relevant as a result of the intervention. Results also underscored the need for continued professional development and coaching of teachers in this area. In particular, the study provided instructive examples of successes and struggles in the area of project negotiation, which can serve to deepen future professional development.

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