Project Based Learning’s time has come. The experience of thousands of teachers across all grade levels and subject areas, backed by research, confirms that PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career and civic life. Why are so many educators across the United States and around the world interested in this teaching method? The answer is a combination of timeless reasons and recent developments.
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.
The Common Core and other present-day standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of the 21st century competencies such as critical thinking, communication in a variety of media, and collaboration. PBL provides an effective way to address such standards.
Modern technology – which students use so much in their lives – is a perfect fit with PBL. With technology, teachers and students can connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world, and use tech tools to find resources and information, create products, and collaborate more effectively.
PBL allows teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.
Current models of PBL are not like some past examples of “doing projects” in which student learning outcomes were not clear. More rigorous and effective models of PBL, such as BIE’s, have been refined and tested in recent years in a variety of settings, subjects, and grade levels.
So, what is it exactly?
Again, from BIE:
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. 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.