Project-Based Learning (abbreviated as PBL) is an approach in which students learn through meaningful inquiry that includes unique and relevant problems, challenges, queries, scenarios, simulations, etc.
“When you think about Project-Based learning, you think about learning that results in demonstrations of performers and real tasks that have bought challenges to students to solve”, said Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor, Stanford University School of Education.
How PBL enhances academic learning?
Several years ago, Jennifer Rust, a math teacher at John Dubiski Career High School [JL1] in Dallas, Texas, attended the first day of a three-day workshop for Project Based Learning (PBL). During the first few hours of the workshop, the speakers focused on the skills that an “ideal graduate” should possess. It was all about 21st century skills. Jennifer raised a doubt about how could she teach all these skills despite having plenty of math course to cover and also less time for conducting tests. Once after completion of the workshop, she planned her first project.
The project, “We Built this City” for her Geometry class, included math concepts including lines, rays, perpendicular lines, parallel lines, intersecting lines, similar figures and irregular polygons. In short, students were asked to design their own city grid plans that included all of the required content. This project pushed her students perform beyond expectations and to Jennifer’s notice, her class performed better than previous year’s class.
“It really wasn’t a “PBL unit,” rather it was a pretty simple applied learning task.”- Jennifer.
This is how PBL enhances soft skills and academic learning as well. The above mentioned is just the 1st project unit of Jennifer. You may read about her 5 projects here.
Focusing on developing students with potential futures in STEM fields- Manor New Tech High School:
Manor New Tech, built on the New Technology Network model of project-based learning, is strikingly different from what is found in traditional secondary education classroom settings.
For students at MNTHS, lectures and homework assignments follow entirely a new approach. Tablets take the place of textbooks, and many classes are taught by a team of instructors. The school exclusively utilizes project-based learning, a process that teaches course concepts through hands-on projects and presentations which students design themselves.
“It’s a more engaging and up-to-date learningsystem”- Steve Zipkes, Manor New Tech’s principal
The school enables students to work in groups of two to four and complete about seven projects in each class throughout the school year. MNTHS mainly focuses on STEM learning, using different technological devices such as smartphones, cameras and computers to familiarize students with useful technology.
“We’re using technology as the invisible tool. It’s not what makes teaching and learning, but it certainly enhances it. With our students today, it’s almost a necessity.” says Zipkes.
To add it on to the top of that, a group of students is working to bring their school’s innovative learning system abroad. They’re teaching their approach of PBL in an international school in Thailand. You may read the full story here.
PBL in Advanced Placement US Government and Politics (APGOV) by KIA (Knowledge In Action) team:
Knowledge in Action (KIA), an initiative from George Lucas Educational Foundation’s (GLEF), is a research program designed and managed by a group of learning scientists, curriculum experts, teacher leaders, and GLEF Research staff. The team KIA applies a great PBL approach to design college curriculum that involves a strategy in which students learn through numerous authentic projects.
KIA initially identified APGOV (Advanced Placement (AP) United States Government and Politics) and redesigned its courses to be project-based.
In designing these AP courses as project based, the KIA team worked from the standards published by the College Board for each course, while incorporating the project’s design principles, which include these two key features:
- Making projects the central element, or spine, of the course to provide a meaningful context for learning and applying critical course content
- Using learning cycles (dubbed looping by the participating teachers), in which students revisit key concepts and questions in each successive project, applying their knowledge again and again — cyclically — in new circumstances, so they might achieve greater depth of understanding and be able to transfer that understanding to novel scenarios.
According to Walter Parker, Professor of Education, University of Washington, instead of including a project in a course, it’ll be more effective if we design a course that is driven through series of projects.
For example, in APGOV project-based unit, to learn about the Constitution and landmark Supreme Court cases, instead of reading a text book, students take on the roles of justices and the lawyers, and start role-playing. This is how students think about how court cases they have studied could apply to the cases they are simulating. Playing authentic roles and participating in simulations of real-world engages students with the context. You may read more about it here.
The above mentioned are a few real life practices of Project-Based Learning. I hope this information helped you know about great practices to implement PBL in your classroom. I welcome you to add a few more effective practices of PBL. Please feel free to share your views as well as practices of PBL in the comment box.