WINCHESTER — Winchester students will not be prepared for the 21st century if project-based learning (PBL) isn’t better implemented in the classroom, according to Winchester Public School’s superintendent.

“It’s got to be that urgent,” said Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum last week during a Winchester School Board retreat.

Since the current strategic plan will end this calendar year, Van Heukelum wants to increase PBL in the upcoming five-year strategic plan. PBL is a progressive approach that incorporates fluid-learning strategies in the classroom so students can develop solutions for real-world problems. PBL typically uses collaborative projects that are self-directed.

Van Heukelum led a portion of the retreat as board members debated how to increase PBL, including the various ways teachers could facilitate collaboration in the classroom.

Because teacher evaluations will be altered with PBL, board members need to garner support for the policy from a wide array of administrators, teachers and parents.

“One of the challenges with PBL is that it can quickly turn into something it wasn’t supposed to be,” Van Heukelum said.

Although he believes the board has more to do before allocating taxpayer dollars, Van Heukelum encouraged board members to write a proposal that would focus on a universal PBL policy. If written, a PBL policy would shift traditional classroom ideology from a teacher’s ability to control the classroom to a teacher’s ability to facilitate different forms of metacognitive activity and foster different skill sets used in the brain.

“Y’all are going to need to be more public in your support [for PBL]. I would go as far as to even say we might even need a darn resolution,” Van Heukelum said.

Ward 2 board member Karen Holman said there needs to be an open dialogue about PBL with the community and that PBL needs to be implemented in all Winchester public schools.

“All of our students should have access to the same opportunities, so that you don’t have to move to a specific segment of the community to have access to PBL where it’s going on. You still get it where you go to school, because it’s the best thing to do,” Holman said.

Attending Thursday’s retreat at Shenandoah University in Davis Hall were Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum, Chairwoman Allyson Pate, Vice Chairwoman Marie Imoh and board members Richard Bell, Mike Birchenough, Erica Truban, Elyus Wallace, Karen Holman and Bryan Pearce-Gonzales.

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