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Why Project Based Learning?
Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
After completing a project, students remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
In the 21st century workplace, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In PBL, students not only understand content more deeply but also learn how to take responsibility and build confidence, solve problems, work collaboratively, communicate ideas, and be creative innovators.
Project‐based learning has ‘shown to be more effective than traditional methods for teaching maths, economics, language, science, and other disciplines’ (Beckett & Miller, 2006). Other research also states that project‐based learning enables students to ‘demonstrate better problem‐solving skills’ (Finkelstein et al., 2010) and that ‘students also show improved critical thinking’ skills (Beckett & Miller, 2006; Tretten & Zachariou, 1995).
We have been working with the Innovations Unit to develop our PBL pedagogy and are currently part of a research project undertaken by Durham University to investigate the impact of PBL. We are a lead school and been visited by education specialists from China, USA, South Korea, Brazil and Australia.
We call our projects REAL, which stands for Rigorous, Engaging, Authentic Learning.
It is essential that every project has a real outcome and a real audience. When students know that the work they are creating in a project will be displayed publicly, this changes the nature of the project from the moment they start working-- because they know they will need to literally ‘stand by’ their work, under scrutiny and questioning from family, friends, and total strangers.
This inspires a level of ambition and commitment much greater than is fuelled by the incentive of ‘getting good marks.’ In addition, students’ families, as well as other people from the local community, get to see what is going on in the school, providing an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the school and community.
So please, get involved in our projects in any way you can, either as an audience member or to share the skills and expertise you have.
Essential Elements of PBL include:
- Significant Content - At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects.
- 21st century competencies - Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.
- In-Depth Inquiry - Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
- Driving Question - Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.
- Need to Know - Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
- Voice and Choice - Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
- Critique and Revision - The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.
- Public Audience - Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.