Project Based Learning Strategy
It’s getting more and more obvious that traditional education is no longer able to prepare adolescents to everything they’re going to face outside the walls of their schools, colleges, and universities. That is to literally anything they’re going to face in real world, stuffed with ever-developing high technology and demanding new forms of human interaction.
Modern educators have already admitted that it’s very difficult to adjust classical academic curriculums to the latest requirements for graduates’ knowledge and skills. What’s more important, the real problem lies not in the lack of opportunity or quality resources to give students the required knowledge or teach them the required skills. The academic degree still does matter to employers. But the real problem lies in the lack of students’ capability to use their knowledge and skills appropriately in order to solve everyday challenges.
So, if even the urgent modernization of current teaching methods can’t help schools to improve the situation, we need something brand-new for that.
Are there any ideas? Yes, there are, and they look quite promising. Progressive educators and students pin their hopes on Project Based Learning strategy. It attracted remarkably close attention in the 21st century. However, the original idea dates back to 1897, when John Dewey, an American psychologist and educational reformer described it in his work “My Pedagogical Creed”. The further research helped this idea grow into the wholesome methodology – project based learning itself.
What Exactly Does PBL Include?
Generally speaking, this teaching method implies students’ interdependent and multi-level work on a project or problem within a set period of time. The main functional idea of PBL is that a teacher should only assign a clear, purposeful, and well-structured task, while the completion of this task and the presentation of its results are up to students. A tutor can’t intervene, give advice or comment on the process until the assignment is done. They are responsible only for correctness and adequacy of the challenge they give, as well as for the monitoring of students’ progress.
PBL methodology focuses on students’ needs, expectations, and strivings in the academic context. Roughly speaking, this method gives students full freedom of choice when it comes to dealing with the posed problem and searching for effective solutions to it. Besides, PBL aims to make students realize that the process and achievements of their collective effort have real, practical value.
The strategy includes eight essentials, also known as Essential Project Design Elements, which help to understand the structure, purposes, and benefits of PBL better:
- challenge (complex question or problem) is the core of a project, motivating students to join efforts and find a solution or answer;
- key knowledge and success skills, such as communication, self-discipline, and critical plus creative thinking, become the central focus of a project, while students’ self-development becomes its goal;
- active inquiry on students’ part is the main driving force of their successful interaction, including questioning, research, analysis and application of information;
- project’s authenticity, which implies the context, qualities, and tools needed for the work, should speak to students’ personal goals, interests or concerns;
- voice and choice is a technique that stands for analysis of the decisions they make and the steps they take while completing a project;
- students and teacher’s reflection means summing up the purposes of the initial assignment and the achievements, effectiveness of the work done, key obstacles and the ways to surmount them;
- revision – critique – revision approach helps to reflect on the completed stages, evaluate the progress, give and receive feedback, and finally improve the work and its results;
- creation of real public product is the crucial motivation factor, influencing the entire work and fueling students’ willingness to continue it.
3 Main Types of PBL
As the correct implementation of PBL strategy implies that a teacher gives students different projects that may require various scenarios of interaction, educators have come up with a classification for the main shapes and sizes of this methodology.
Type 1: Challenge-based learning
It encourages to apply modern technology to solve various real-life problems. Simply put, this type of PBL allows students to use smartphones and tablets (as well as IPhones and IPads) to find solutions for the challenge posed in a project assigned.
Type 2: Place-based learning
The main purpose of this method is immersing students in unique local experiences, within native landscapes, lifestyles and cultures. The performance of authentic work in such intimate communities can be an integral part of a complex approach to teaching math, science, arts, and many other disciplines.
Type 3: Activity-based leaning
It involves some constructivism that manifests itself in the purpose to build complex knowledge structures. Students would take part in hands-on activities, which often involve some kind or experimental possibilities. Therefore, students construct their own meanings.
Does PBL Have a Dark Side?
Some educators consider it does, despite its apparent advantages over traditional teaching approaches. Most critiques, but not opponents, of project based learning highlight two main problems it brings about.
First, there’s a risk that in the work process some students may do more than others either because of their personal wish to get distinguished or because of their pure laziness. So, the original noble idea of teamwork, put in PBL, may not justify itself.
Second, there’s a difficulty in the assessment of students’ progress. Most teachers, who have already started doing PBL, tend to assess the results of students’ work, without attaching proper significance to the process. However, in most cases the latter demonstrates more clearly whether students have achieved the very goal of PBL or not. That is interdependent, goal-oriented interaction between all students on the way to the solution of answer.
Nonetheless, project based learning provides a good model of real-life human cooperation in companies and organizations. Thus, it can help adolescents realize what their employers and colleagues expect from them as well as how to apply and share their knowledge and skills in order to meet those expectations.
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