Project based learning (PBL) is a dynamic approach that is used both in the classroom and the outside community. Students actively explore real-world problems and challenges, many of their own choosing, in which they engage in an extended investigation that leads to deeper learning competencies.
Schools are embracing the PBL approach in many and various ways. Some use projects exclusively in the classroom; others open the doors to community and service projects. Community projects can engage students in activities where they investigate and address critical problems in their communities and around the world. The best PBL projects tackle challenging problems and issues that students find compelling and incorporate student voice and choice in project design and implementation.
The PBL Approach to Learning
What makes project based learning a successful approach to learning? According to the Buck Institute for Education, here are the essential elements to consider:
Student-Driven Learning Goals. A project should focus on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, communication, collaboration, and self-management. Students themselves make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
Challenging Problem or Question. The project is framed by a challenging issue to investigate, a meaningful problem to solve or a compelling question to answer.
Sustained Inquiry. Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
Authenticity. The project features real-world tasks and tools, quality standards, or speaks to the personal concerns and interests of students' lives.Reflection. Students and teachers engage in reflection. They discuss and analyze the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, and how to overcome any obstacles experienced. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are honed through this process.
Critique and Revision. Students engage in peer criticism. They give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
Public Product. Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and presenting it to people beyond the classroom.
Does It Work?
Research has found that the project based learning approach, a type of experiential learning, makes school more engaging for students. Studies show a positive effect on student academic achievement, mastery of 21st century competences such as problem-solving and critical thinking, and increasing students' motivation to learn.
Whether projects are conducted in the classroom or in the community, the goal is to always connect classroom learning to its applications in the outside world. When the project is based in the real world, addressing problems that people actually face, and not focused on a grade, students are naturally invested.