Sunday, September 23, 2007

Project-Based Learning

When you describe the learning activities in your classroom, would you like any of these phrases to apply to them?
  • active learning
  • authentic experiences
  • demonstration of mastery
  • engaging students
  • experiential learning
  • minds-on, hands-on
  • real-world
  • relevant
  • rigorous
  • standards-focused
  • 21st century skills
These words describe project-based learning. Project-based learning (PBL) moves away from isolated, teacher-centered lessons and emphasizes, instead, longer, student-centered lessons. PBL lessons are more likely to be interdisciplinary and to deal with real world issues.

Do we have time for project-based learning and its teaching in these days when teachers must teach the standards and students must pass standardized tests each year to meet the need for data to guide decisions about education covering districts, states, and the entire country? Based on some of the research, the question might instead be, as we prepare today’s students to live and learn in a very different society and economy, how can we not teach the standards and the processes of developing insight into projects of various types and solving the related problems through project-based learning?

There is much information about PBL on the web. Much of that information is very good. Examine and explore some sites with me…

The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia lists project-based learning as one of its priority topics. Their site lists a summary of research activity that shows positive results of using PBL, including improved test scores. Stories are shared of students and teachers in both elementary and secondary schools and their effective project-based learning. (Be sure to watch the video of kindergarten students and their student-driven projects!) Specific ideas and resources are offered to help teachers who want to start using PBL in their teaching.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has begun a feature area--Your Learning Journey--on their web site. The first journey focuses on project-based learning. Annotated links to PBL web sites, one teacher’s experience, PBL articles from Leading & Learning (L&L) and the Journal for Research in Teacher Education (JRTE), and information about a new ISTE book (available November 2007)--Reinventing Project-Based Learning--provide excellent ideas and shared experiences. You can also access a blog about project-based learning or a wiki where educators will be able to share their experiences. This learning journey is well put together.

I have already mentioned in an earlier blog entry a useful checklist tool for PBL activities.

techLEARNING has posted a primer for beginning to work with PBL. The well-written primer covers these topics:

  • Getting Started with Project-Based Learning
  • Criteria for PBL
  • Elements of a Great PBL Project
  • How to Pick a Project
  • Steps to Creating a PBL Project
  • Advice to Teachers, Technology Coordinators, and Administrators
  • PBL Information Online
PBL-Online provides resources for designing and implementing projects for middle and high school students. This web site guides you through the design process. You can use the PBL Co-Laboratory to search for projects already designed by others. (You must first complete a free registration.) And, finally, access to research and web resources is available. You can find a variety of useful ideas for instruction. One of the pages lists some guidelines and criteria to consider when working with a classroom that uses PBL. Some of the ideas include having a risk-free environment, encouraging higher order thinking skills, and being accessible for all learners. Web resources are available in five categories: introduction, designing projects, project examples, school reform, and “What do PBL teachers say?”

A good comparison of project-based learning, problem-based learning, and inquiry-based learning is available at teacher tap. If you have time, explore the entire teacher tap web site. There’s LOTS of good information there!

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) provides some useful information about problem-based learning. ASCD has published information about this topic. In fact, they have print, videotape, and audiotape resources.

A search on YouTube brings up some interesting videos about project-based learning. What Are Your Kids Thinking? offers what might be some students’ thoughts in a teacher-directed classroom. In Picturing the Possibilities, we watch a mathematics teacher and her students involved in some PBL activities. The next two videos--My Kind of High School and Sophia – Student at Avalon--show students describing their projects.

And, on another note, thanks to Eric Curts of the Ohio Treasure Chest who mentioned this blog in his recent podcast as one of his favorite places to find treasures for his Treasure Chest!

Added note: In the second comment below, Laura's link to the sample chapters in the ASCD book did not come through fully. So, if you would like to follow the link, click here.


Gabby205 said...

I think that it is very important to incorporate porject based learning into the curriculum no matter what subject is being taught. Real life based projects will help students to see how what they now can be applied to the real world. Also the importance of using technology in some of these projects can help them to not only apply the project to there lives but also giving them the neccesary skills in order to compete in the real world in the 21st century.

Laura said...

hi Jo--Thanks for the mention of ASCD. Your readers also might be interested in browsing the ASCD Book, How to Use Problem Based Learning in the Classroom. Copy n' paste this link to go to the sample chapters: