Project-Based Learning Certificate

Part of the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Division

The Project-Based Learning Certificate program is designed for current educators who strive to create rich, meaningful, and rigorous learning experiences through student-centered approaches to teaching and learning. Developed in collaboration with the Science Leadership Academy, the Workshop School, Inquiry Schools, and EL Education, the program provides an innovative professional learning experience that allows currently practicing teachers to leverage the educational expertise of Penn GSE’s faculty and some of the most skilled and experienced student-centered learning practitioners from across the country.


Fast Facts

Ideal Candidates: Current elementary, middle, or high school teachers, instructional coaches, department chairs, or other instructional leaders.

While some programs focus on developing or refining curriculum or projects, this program is different. Even with a terrific project or unit, this program recognizes that what a teacher does to bring it to life makes all the difference. Accordingly, this program focuses on what teachers actually do in the classroom. For example, how do teachers support students to collaborate? How do teachers help students make connections to their work and contributions to their world? How do teachers support students to reflect and revise their work?

Format: Executive

  • A week-long summer institute, on-campus, August 5–9, 2019.
  • Virtual, video-based, instructional coaching throughout the academic year.
  • A second week-long summer institute back on campus, August 3–7, 2020.

Students receive three continuing education units and a University of Pennsylvania Certificate.

Program Overview

The Project-Based Learning Certificate program is advanced professional development. The program is designed to help teachers engage their students in authentic intellectual inquiry, facilitate learning through projects, and develop vital student skills such as critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving.


A blended program structure allows for the best of both in-person and virtual learning experiences. The program begins with a week-long summer institute at the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout the school year, teachers will work with an expert instructional coach from the program’s instructional team. Coaches provide ongoing feedback and support that teachers can use immediately in their own classrooms. Teachers return to Penn GSE for a final summer institute, where they learn how to develop themselves as instructional leaders within their schools and their communities.

Program Leadership and Instructional Team

Our program leadership and instructional team come with deep experience and expertise in teacher development and student-centered approaches to teaching and learning.

Advisory Team

Pam Grossman
Dean, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

Matthew Riggan
Co-Founder, The Workshop School

Chris Lehmann
CEO, Science Leadership Academy Schools

Meg Riordan
Director of External Research, EL Education


Instructional Team

Alissa Fong
Professional Development Associate and Instructional Coach,
Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET), Stanford University

Alissa serves as a Professional Development Associate and an Instructional Coach in Mathematics for the Hollyhock Fellowship Program through CSET at Stanford University. She is also on the Stanford Problem Solving Cycle project, a research-practice collaboration between CSET and San Francisco Unified School District that focuses on developing teacher leaders and professional learning communities. Prior to her work at CSET, Fong taught mathematics for eleven years in California public high schools. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and a graduate of the Stanford Teacher Education Program.

Zachary Herrmann
Director & Lecturer,
University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

A former math teacher, Zachary develops and leads professional learning focused on teacher and leader development, collaboration, and creative problem solving. Zachary currently teaches in the Education Entrepreneurship program, Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program, and the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Penn GSE, as well as within the undergraduate and M.B.A. programs at Wharton. Zachary earned his B.S. in Mathematics and an Ed.M. in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Illinois, an M.A. in Education from Stanford University, and a Doctorate in Education Leadership from Harvard University.  

Sarah Schneider Kavanagh
Research Assistant Professor, 
University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

A former middle and high school teacher, Sarah now studies teacher learning. Her work focuses on understanding the characteristics of teacher learning experiences that influence teachers to adopt inquiry-oriented and student-centered practices. Prior to arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah was a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and a Research Scientist at the University of Washington.

Deb Morrison
Research Associate, Institute for Science and Math Education (ISME), University of Washington, Seattle

Deb started her career as an ecologist, moving into science education in 2001; she has two degrees in science and a PhD in science education. A former middle school science teacher, Deb works at the research and practice interface to foster equitable learning opportunities. Her work centers on desettling deficit narratives through the improvement of formative assessment practices to leverage student voice in instructional decision making.

Christopher Pupik Dean
Senior Fellow, 
University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

Chris started his career in education as a high school science teacher in North Carolina. After earning his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, his focus has been building teacher education programs that involve close collaboration between secondary schools and the university. His research interests include humanities education, civic education, and teacher education. 

Tina Schuster
Humanities Teacher and Facilitator,
High Tech High network, San Diego, CA

Tina is a humanities teacher and a facilitator of adult learning within the High Tech High network, a fully immersive project-based learning network of schools. Tina has taught in the United States, Namibia, and the Dominican Republic. She recently completed a Fulbright Research project studying risk-taking and teaching in Finland. Tina earned her B.A. in Political Science and African-American Studies as well as a Master's in Teaching Secondary Social Studies at the University of Virginia. Additionally, she earned a M.Ed. in School Leadership from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. Tina has spent her teaching career finding ways to integrate civic education into a variety of different school subjects.

Richard Staniec
Physics and Integrated Science Teacher,
Upper Perkiomen High School, Pennsburg, PA

Richard began his career as an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia, PA. He later transitioned to middle school science, which he taught for nearly 10 years. In addition to his time in the classroom, Richard also worked as an instructor for the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where he taught secondary science methods to pre-service and in-service teachers as well as for the Knowles Teacher Initiative as a Program Officer, Teacher Development. Currently, he teaches high school physics and integrated science at Upper Perkiomen High School in Pennsburg, PA. Richard holds a B.S. in exercise physiology from Temple University and an M.Ed. from St. Joseph’s University.

Melissa Viola-Askey
Social Studies Professional Development Specialist,
Prince William County Schools

Melissa’s work focuses on supporting secondary social studies teachers through professional learning, curriculum development, and coaching. She was most recently a sixth grade US history teacher in a Title I middle school and has experience teaching history at the high school level, as well as K-12 reading classes. Melissa earned her B.A. in History and Ed.M. in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University at Buffalo, an Ed.M. in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University in Portland, and is currently finishing a Post-Master’s Certificate program in Educational Leadership and Administration from the George Washington University.

Gina Wickstead
Humanities Teacher and Facilitator
High Tech High Middle Media Arts, San Diego, CA

Gina has been a Language Arts and Social Studies teacher for 17 years, and is currently teaching at High Tech Middle Media Arts, a Project-Based Learning School in San Diego, California. She received an undergraduate degree from The Evergreen State College and a Master’s in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University. In 2008 she received a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certificate. Along with teaching, she has been a staff and site supervisor for student teachers.

Apply Now


The application for the 2019-2020 academic year is now available. Please click here to apply. Deadline dates are as follows:

Priority deadline: February 1st, 2019

Final deadline: April 15th, 2019

Personal Statement Instructions

In addition to describing your current role, employer, and teaching experience (including subject-area, grade level, and length), please address the following prompts:

  • Why are you interested in Penn GSE Project-Based Learning Certificate program? What are you hoping to get out of the experience?
  • Describe a project from your classroom, what you’ve learned from it as an educator, and what changes you believe would make it better. 

Full and partial scholarship funding is available. For scholarship consideration, please fill out our scholarship application.


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Division

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education

3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

We would love to answer your questions, so please do not hesitate to reach out.


Zachary Herrmann
Program Director


Sara Goldstein

Program Assistant

For more information, and to stay connected with the program, click here.