Project Based Learning Expert, Writer, Editor

Internationally-recognized expert in project-based learning (PBL),  writer, editor, speaker, curriculum developer, and professional learning designer.  

John is a passionate, innovative educator and long-time advocate for progressive school reform, dedicated to making learning more meaningful for all students.  He is currently senior PBL advisor for Defined Learning, contributing to its curriculum development, blog, white papers, professional learning programs, and promotion of PBL. 

As a key builder of Buck Institute for Education (now dba PBLWorks), John served as its editor in chief, director of publications, and director of product development. He co-developed the model for Gold Standard PBL that is the foundation of PBLWorks’s products and services, and oversaw the quality of its written materials and website content. John edited the acclaimed PBL Blog, wrote widely-used rubrics for 21st century success skills, and problem-based curriculum units for high school government and economics. He contributed to PBLWorks’s research, online project library, and in-person and online professional development programs including the flagship PBL 101 workshop and workbook. 

John is the author of several books on PBL (see below)  for K-12 teachers, school leaders, and parents, which have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, and Portuguese, as well as many articles and blog posts. He has presented sessions and keynotes at conferences and events across the U.S. and in other countries.

Before joining the Buck Institute for Education, John worked at the Western Assessment Collaborative at WestEd. For ten years John taught high school social studies and English, and co-founded a restructured small high school. He was a member of the National School Reform Faculty and a school coach for the Coalition of Essential Schools

Recent writing projects include contributing to the XQ Institute's blog, a book for K-12 teachers, Teaching Civics Today, and project-based U.S. history curriculum units for Educurious.

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Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning: A Proven Approach to Rigorous Classroom Instruction (ASCD 2015; best-seller)

Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences  (w/ Suzie Boss; ASCD 2018; best-seller)

PBL Starter Kit: To-the-Point Advice, Tools and Tips for Your First Project in Middle or High School, 2nd Edition (Buck Institute for Education 2017)

Getting Started with Project Based Learning (Quick Reference Guide; ASCD 2017)

PBL 101 Workbook: The Companion to PBLWorks' Introductory Project Based Learning Workshop (2011-2020)

An Intro to Project Based Learning for Parents and School Communities (Buck Institute for Education 2016)

Project Based Learning That Makes a Difference  Educational Leadership magazine, ASCD, March 2020

How Teachers Can Support PBL at Home: Tips and Projects Teachers Can Share with Parents and Caregivers, Edutopia, April 2020

PBL Blog, PBLWorks, Feb. 2020



Learning Forward Professional Learning Conference Speaker

December, 2019, St. Louis, Missouri

IONTheFuture6 "Deep Within" Conference Keynote

August 2019, Sydney, Australia

ASCD Annual Conference Speaker

March 2004-2019, USA

Learning Competency: Project-based Learning Conference Keynote

November 2018, Shanghai, China

Annual Conference for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Speaker

November 2014, Nashville, Tennessee

High Schools That Work/Southern Regional Education Board Annual Conference Speaker

2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, USA

International Problem-Based Learning Symposium Speaker

2005, Lima, Peru & 2007, Singapore