August 13, 2014
 Our Vision: Ignite Passion. Inspire Excellence. Imagine Possibilities.

Dear District 41 Community,

I am excited to share information with you about what our teachers have been doing this summer to prepare for this coming school year.  

You may have heard the term Problem-Based Learning (PBL) from some of our teachers, principals and staff.  As a way to integrate exploration through PBL into the classroom, teachers spent time this summer learning how to align real-word problems and inquiry with the standards.

The goal is for all schools to embrace learning environments which are problem-based and solution driven. PBL experiences are built around three key concepts: transformative process, constructive problem solving and real-world engagement.  Ideas for PBL can come from all over: teachers, students, business, industry, and the media.  

One of the most exciting parts of PBL is when students engage with the organization and business partners. Students will present their ideas, receive feedback and defend their solutions. Partners from business, industry, and universities may co-teach with teachers, work with students, sit on panels, mentor, and share ideas for curriculum.  

Here is what PBL looks like when teachers present these real-life problems as part of classroom work:

  • Student learning outcomes are based on the Illinois Learning Standards incorporating the Common Core in an authentic learning environment  

  • Learning is driven by challenging, open-ended practical problems worthy of the attention of experts in a particular field of study

  • Students generally work in collaborative groups

  • Teachers spend more time facilitating learning than delivering information

  • PBL enhances content knowledge and fosters communication, critical thinking and self- directed learning skills

  • Students advocate for their solution by comparing it to solutions of experts in the field and those of their peers

  • Students solve problems through various methods while working collaboratively to identify the strengths and flaws of their ideas and ultimately choosing to put forth the strongest idea

  • Students work with experts in the field and in authentic field experiences

  • Students learn the necessary skills and knowledge that are needed for life, but the PBL structure allows our students to engage in solving real-world problems and to transfer their learning in new and meaningful ways.

I am extremely proud of the amount of professional development our teachers have engaged in this summer.  They have participated in intense three-day workshops and have been taught by professional Problem-Based Learning coaches.

Bringing PBL to District 41 is to the credit of our teachers and school administrators across the district. They have truly been dedicated to enhancing the classroom experience.  I am personally excited to be a part of the transformation of our District into a 21st century teaching and learning community for ourstaff and students.

It's hard to believe that the beginning of the school year is almost here! We will be seeing you all very soon.

Paul Gordon


P.S.  Please let us know if you have any connections to businesses or organizations that might be appropriate and interested in participating in PBL with us. Please contact Denise Mackowiak at 630-534-7260 or email her at  The District 41 Central Services Office will be reaching out and inviting organizations to learn how we can work together.





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