My summer internship provided many experiences that will influence my classes at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy ( I focus here on one specific experience because it will directly impact the way I use Project Based Learning (PBL) to teach. At Vernon Malone we use PBL to engage students in authentic learning, much like the experience I had at the ASSIST Center (

My experience with the engineering and design process (EDP) will help me more effectively teach students about the PBL process. Students learn through PBL by exploring topics found in the curriculum, typically topics they will need to understand to successfully create the project’s product. This process ends up producing a number of iterations of project components. Each iteration builds on the previous one. This series of iterations also occurs in the EDP.

After experiencing the EDP firsthand I realized the iterations are not just about the product. Sure the product will go through various phases, punctuated by reflection and modification, each time moving the product closer to the goal. That goal, or target product, is described in a rubric. It is the rubric students use to reflect on their work and make modifications, hopefully bringing the product closer to the target.

My understanding or knowledge of the various components of our product, a wearable UV detector, grew through a serious of starts and stops. Experiencing these iterations of understanding caused me to rethink ways to use rubrics during PBL. I plan to use at least two rubrics for projects implemented this fall: the usual product rubric and a new rubric for depth of understanding. Students will use the depth of understanding rubric during reflections the same way they use the product rubric. I believe using the rubric in this manner will help formalize the iterative nature of the learning process. Overtly focusing on the iterative process of learning could help students develop a much deeper understanding of curriculum content.

Footnote: If you are unfamiliar with PBL, check out the Buck Institute for Education ( for more details.

Author’s Note: I wrote this post on Tuesday afternoon August 2nd. It did not post to this site until Wednesday August 3rd.

2 thoughts on “From EDP to PBL, From ASSIST to VMCCA

  1. April Bernier

    I’m always happy to (hear) read from another PBLer! I’m interested in your idea of two rubrics. Any chance you could share samples?

    1. Thom Tomlinson Post author

      Sorry for the delay. If I have not already shared I will be happy to share. Crazy school year has me out-of-step!

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