Why is Project Based Learning Important?
Project-based learning helps students develop skills for living
in a knowledge-based, highly technological society. The old-school
model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context
is no longer sufficient to prepare students to survive in today's
world. Solving highly complex problems requires that students
have both fundamental skills (reading, writing, and math) and
Digital Age skills (teamwork, problem solving, research gathering,
time management, information synthesizing, utilizing high-tech
tools). With this combination of skills students become directors
and managers of their learning process, guided and mentored by
a skilled teacher.
What is Project Based Learning?
Project-based learning is curriculum fueled and standards based.
Project-based learning addresses the required content standards.
With project-based learning, the inquiry process starts with a
guiding question and lends itself to collaborative projects that
integrate various subjects within the curriculum. Questions are
asked that direct students to encounter the major elements and
principles of a discipline.
Project-based learning asks a question or poses a problem that
each student can answer.
With project-based learning the teacher or the students pose a
guiding question: What happens at night? What do nocturnal animals
do while we're sleeping? What is cystic fibrosis and how is it
caused? What would happen if our class formed a business with
a real product and started selling stock? What does a high school
look like in the year 2050? (These questions are the basis for
projects you'll see in GLEF's articles and video segments.)
Recognizing that children have different learning styles, learning
through projects allows the students to delve into the content
in a more direct and meaningful way.
Concrete, hands-on experiences come together during project-based
learning. Field trips, experiments, model building, posters, and
the creation of multimedia presentations are all viable activities
within project-based learning and present multiple ways for students
to demonstrate their knowledge ... there is no one right answer!
Project-based learning asks students to investigate issues and
topics addressing real-world problems while integrating subjects
across the curriculum.
By creating bridges between subjects, students view knowledge
holistically, rather than looking at isolated facts. Sylvia Chard
says that the project approach is an "in-depth investigation
of a real-world topic worthy of children's attention and effort."
Project-based learning is a method that fosters abstract, intellectual
tasks to explore complex issues.
It promotes understanding, which is true knowledge. Students explore,
make judgments, interpret, and synthesize information in meaningful
ways. It is more representative of how adults are asked to learn
and demonstrate knowledge.
How Does Project Based Learning Work?
Project-based learning, as with all lessons, requires much preparation
It begins with an idea and an "Essential question" (Questioning.org,
© Jamie McKenzie). When designing the project and the Essential
question that will launch the activities, it is essential that
one remember that many content standards will be addressed. With
these standards in mind, devise a plan that will integrate as
many subjects as possible into the project. Have in mind what
materials and resources will be accessible to the students to
assist them. Next, students will need to be given assistance in
managing their time -- a definite life skill. Finally, have multiple
means for assessing your students' completion of the project.
Did the students master the content? Were they able to apply their
new knowledge and skills? Many educators involve their students
in developing these rubrics.
Steps for Project-Based Learning
a. Essential Question
The question that will launch a project-based learning lesson
must be one that will engage the students. It is greater than
the task at hand. It is open-ended. It will pose a problem or
a situation that the students can tackle knowing that there is
no ONE answer or solution. Take a real-world topic and begin an
in-depth investigation. Base your question on a situation or topic
that is authentic. What is happening in your classroom? In your
community? Make it one that students can feel that they are making
an impact by answering the question or solving the problem. Make
it relevant for your students. The question should be a "NOW"
question -- a question that has meaning for the students in their
lives at this moment in time.