Project-Based Learning: Everything You Need to Know

Mostly, project-based learning is wrongly swapped for problem-based learning (perhaps due to their identical acronyms: PBL). Although somewhat similar, these two forms of learning have their distinct uniqueness. Similarities between both models include students being assigned difficult problems that have no clear-cut solutions and being asked to provide their own unique viewpoints about the problems.

However, unlike the problem-based learning approach, project-based learning features students developing comprehensive projects instead of just answers. This form of learning often takes more time (can take several weeks) than the problem-based learning approach and is really comprehensive. As such, project-based learning is usually intended to challenge students more than the former approach.

At times, project-based learning is used interchangeably with “discovery learning” or “experiential learning.” This model of learning has seven characteristics as follows:

·         Brings together what students should academically understand, know, and be able to do into consideration

·         Focuses on an open-ended challenge, question, or problem for the student to research and either solve or respond to

·         Is inquiry-based, generates questions, and encourages intrinsic curiosity as it helps students look for answers

·         Integrates students’ choices into the process

·         Uses skills like communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, among others

·         Needs students to present their problems, research methods, and processes, and find results, just as real-world or scientific research projects must stand before constructive criticism and peer review

·         Provides chances for feedback and revision of the project and the plan, similar to real life

Designing a good project-based learning approach is a challenging task. Here are the key elements it should include:

·         A challenging and meaningful question or problem

·         Authenticity

·         Sustained inquiry

·         Student voice and choice

·         Reflection

·         Critique and revision

When combined well, all of these elements result in students learning key knowledge and gaining skills necessary for success.

Designing a project-based learning module takes time and planning and includes different parts. Over the course of a project, teachers may assign field research, teach direct lessons, and invite experts to share their insights on the subject being taught. Students may also be asked to make a video, create a report, build a model, or draft a proposal. The key is to offer various ways for students to develop skills and display what they know. By tapping into what works for students, teachers will be able to reach and engage more students in a project-based learning model.

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