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John Larmer
John Larmer

Senior PBL Advisor

John Larmer is the Senior PBL Advisor for Defined. John is a strong believer in the power of education. He became a high school social studies and English teacher in the 1980s because he always liked school and felt comfortable with teenagers. He also loved history and civics and wanted to awaken students to the world they would soon enter as adult citizens. In 1989 he read the book Horace’s Compromise by Ted Sizer, founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, and it set him on a lifelong path to reform teaching and learning. He believes in active, not passive learning and giving students meaningful, authentic work–and that all students, not just some, deserve that kind of education.

John left the classroom to work at WestEd, then in 2001 joined the Buck Institute for Education, now known as PBLWorks. He served as its director of product development and editor in chief, becoming a thought leader and expert on project-based learning. He wrote project-based curriculum units for U.S. government and economics, helped design Buck’s professional development workshops, wrote rubrics for 21st-century skills, and co-developed their model for Gold Standard PBL. He is the author of many blog posts, articles, and books on PBL, including the ASCD best sellers Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning (2015) and Project Based Teaching (2018). In 2021 he wrote the book Teaching Civics Today for Teacher Created Materials. He has spoken at conferences in China, Australia, Chile, and several other countries. 

He earned a B.A. in political science at Stanford University, and a M.A. in education at San Francisco State University. A lifelong Californian, John lives just north of San Francisco and loves the High Sierra, redwood forests, and beaches. He enjoys following politics, cooking, traveling, hiking, and spending time with his family.