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Project-based learning, or PBL (often "PjBL" to avoid confusion with "Problem-based Learning"), is the use of classroom projects, intended to bring about deep learning, where students use technology and inquiry to engage with issues and questions that are relevant to their lives. These classroom projects are used to assess student's subject matter competence compared to traditional testing.

Contents

Purpose

Project-based learning (PBL): best defined as instruction relating questions and technology relative to the students everyday lives to classroom projects. Students form their own investigation of their own group which allows students to develop valuable research skills. The students engage in design, problem solving, decision making, and investigative activities. It allows students to work in groups or by themselves and allows them to come up with ideas and realistic solutions or presentations. Students take a problem and apply it to a real life situation with these projects.

Project-based learning (PBL) provides complex tasks based on challenging questions or problems that involve the students' problem solving, decision making, investigative skills, and reflection that include teacher facilitation, but not direction. Project Based Learning is focused on questions that drive students to encounter the central concepts and principles of a subject hands-on.

With Project-based learning students learn from these experiences and take them into account and apply them to their lives in the real world. PBL is a different teaching technique that promotes and practices new learning habits. The students have to think in original ways to come up with the solutions to these real world problems. It helps with their creative thinking skills by showing that there are many ways to solve a problem.

Structure

Project-based learning(PjBL): is an approach for classroom activity that emphasizes learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary and student-centered. This approach is generally less structured than traditional, teacher-led classroom activities; in a project-based class, students often must organize their own work and manage their own time. Within the project based learning framework students collaborate, working together to make sense of what is going on. Project-based instruction differs from inquiry-based activity by its emphasis on collaborative learning. Additionally, project-based instruction differs from traditional inquiry by its emphasis on students' own artifact construction to represent what is being learned.

Elements

Elements of a good project based learning experience include:

  • A fertile open-ended question or issue that is rich, real and relevant to the students lives
  • Real world use of technology
  • Student-directed learning and/or the deliberate engagement of student voice
  • Collaboration
  • Multi-disciplinary components
  • Long term (more than 3 weeks) time frame
  • Outcomes-based, with an artifact, presentation, or action as a result of the inquiry
  • Project should be focused on making sure students are learning.

Activities

When used with 21st century tools/skills [1], Project Based Learning (PBL) is more than just a web-quest or internet research task. Within this type of project, students are expected to use technology in meaningful ways to help them investigate, collaborate, analyze, synthesize and present their learning. Where technology is infused throughout the project, a more appropriate term for the pedagogy can be referred to as iPBL (copyright 2006, ITJAB), to reflect the emphasis of technological tools/skills AND academic content.

The PROMOTE Georgia Project[2] is an excellent example of iPBL. This 2002 Georgia Department of Education initiative was developed by a team of instructional technologists. When used effectively, research has shown PBL, and iPBL, helps teachers create a high-performing classroom in which teachers and students form a powerful learning community. The aim is for real-life context and technology to meet and achieve outcomes in the curriculum through an inquiry based approach. A PBL approach is designed to encourage students to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners. Many teachers and researches involved in PBL believe it makes school more meaningful as it provides in-depth investigations of real-world topics and significant issues worthy of each individual child's attention and investigation.

Another excellent example of iPBL (copyright 2006, ITJAB), especially as it relates to the K12 learning market, is GenYes GenYes. GenYes teams students with partner teachers in delivering 21st century education using technological tools. GenYes is the only U.S. Department of Education "Exemplary" program for professional development of teachers on technology. Hundreds to thousands of wonderful examples of iPBL (copyright 2006, ITJAB) outcomes are archived at the GenYes web site, [3].

High Tech High in San Diego is yet another example of successful project-based learning with a 21st Century flair (iPBL), as presented in this Jim Lehrer News Hour video.

Within the last several years, a handful proven models organized by PBL educators have received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to start holistic PBL schools across the United States. A few of those organizations include:

  • EdVisions Schools [4]
  • Envision Schools [5]
  • North Bay Academy of Communication and Design [6]
  • Big Picture Schools [7]

Roles

PBL relies on learning groups. Student groups determine their projects, in so doing, they engage student voice by encouraging students to take full responsibility for their learning. This is what makes PBL constructivist. Students work together to accomplish specific goals.

When students use technology as a tool to communicate with others, they take on an active role vs. a passive role of transmitting the information by a teacher, a book, or broadcast. The student is constantly making choices on how to obtain, display, or manipulate information. Technology makes it possible for students to think actively about the choices they make and execute. Every student has the opportunity to get involved either individually or as a group.

Instructor role in Project Based Learning is that of a facilitator. They do not relinquish control of the classroom or student learning but rather develop an atmosphere of shared responsibility. The Instructor must structure the proposed question/issue so as to direct the student's learning toward content-based materials. The instructor must regulate student success with intermittent, transitional goals to ensure student projects remain focused and students have a deep understanding of the concepts being investigated. It is important for teachers not to provide the students any answers because it defeats the learning and investigating process. Once the project is finished, the instructor provides the students with feedback that will help them strengthen their skills for their next project

Student role is to ask questions, build knowledge, and determine a real-world solution to the issue/question presented. Students must collaborate expanding their active listening skills and requiring them to engage in intelligent focused communication. Therefore, allowing them to think rationally on how to solve problems. PBL forces students to take ownership of their success.

Outcomes

More important than learning science, students need to learn to work in a community, thereby taking on social responsibilities. The most significant contributions of PBL have been in schools languishing in poverty stricken areas; when students take responsibility, or ownership, for their learning, their self-esteem soars. It also helps to create better work habits and attitudes toward learning. In standardized tests, languishing schools have been able to raise their testing grades a full level by implementing PBL. Although students do work in groups, they also become more independent because they are receiving little instruction from the teacher. With Project-Based Learning students also learn skills that are essential in higher education. The students learn more than just finding answers, PBL allows them to expand their minds and think beyond what they normally would. Students have to find answers to questions and combine them using critically thinking skills to come up with answers.

PBL is significant to the study of (mis-)conceptions; local concepts and childhood intuitions that are hard to replace with conventional classroom lessons. In PBL, project science is the community culture; the student groups themselves resolve their understandings of phenomena with their own knowledge building. Technology allows them to search in more useful ways, along with getting more rapid results.

Opponents of Project Based Learning warn against negative outcomes primarily in projects that become unfocused and tangential arguing that underdeveloped lessons can result in the wasting of precious class time. No one teaching method has been proven more effective than another. Opponents suggest that narratives and presentation of anecdotal evidence included in lecture-style instruction can convey the same knowledge in less class time. Given that disadvantaged students generally have fewer opportunities to learn academic content outside of school, wasted class time due to an unfocused lesson presents a particular problem. Instructors can be deluded into thinking that as long as a student is engaged and doing, they are learning. Ultimately it is cognitive activity that determines the success of a lesson. If the project does not remain on task and content driven the student will not be successful in learning the material. The lesson will be ineffective. Like any approach, Project Based Learning is only beneficial when applied successfully.

Problem-based learning is a similar pedagogic approach, however, problem-based approaches structure students' activities more by asking them to solve specific (open-ended) problems rather than relying on students to come up with their own problems in the course of completing a project.

Criticism

(This section needs citations for these statements and claims.)

Given that Project Based Learning has been almost exclusively implemented in poverty stricken communities the main criticism is that it constitutes experimenting on the poor like they are lab rats. In the many attempts to implement PBL in wealthy school districts have failed primarily because the wealthy understand that traditional teaching methods have developed over thousands of years and have the widespread support of Academia (i.e. university professors). In contrast PBL has developed exclusively from the field of education whose primary goal is to establish the relevance of their own field.

Another widely held critique is that PBL has created an unmitigated disaster in mathematics, the reason being that mathematics is primarily skill based at the elementary level. By transforming the curriculum into an over-reaching project or series of projects does not allow for the necessary practice at particular mathematical skills, for instance factoring quadratic equations in elementary algebra is something that requires extensive practice.

Another criticism of PBL is that measures that are stated as reasons for its success are not measurable, for instance how do you measure improved "self esteem"?

See also

External links

References

  • Barron, B. (1998). Doing with understanding: Lessons from research on problem- and project-based learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences. 7 (3&4), 271-311.
  • Blumenfeld, P.C. et al. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26, 369-398.
  • Boss, S., & Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
  • Katz, L. and Chard, S.C.. (2000) Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach (2d Edition), Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
  • Keller, B. (2007, September 19). No Easy Project. Education Week, 27(4), 21-23. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.
  • Knoll, M. (1997). The project method: its origin and international development. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education 34 (3), 59-80.
  • Shapiro, B. L. (1994). What Children Bring to Light: A Constructivist Perspective on Children's Learning in Science; New York. Teachers College Press.
  • Helm, J. H., Katz, L. (2001). Young investigators: The project approach in the early years. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Mitchell, S., Foulger, T. S., & Wetzel, K., Rathkey, C. (February, 2009). The negotiated project approach: Project-based learning without leaving the standards behind. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(4), 339-346. Available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/c73q57211024x727/fulltext.html
  • Polman, J. L. (2000). Designing project-based science: Connecting learners through guided inquiry. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Reeves, Diane Lindsey STICKY LEARNING. Raleigh, North Carolina: Bright Futures Press, 2009. [9].
  • Foulger, T.S. & Jimenez-Silva, M. (2007). Enhancing the writing development of English learners: Teacher perceptions of common technology in project-based learning. Journal of Research on Childhood Education, 22(2), 109-124.
  • Wetzel, K., Mitchell-Kay, S., & Foulger, T. S., Rathkey, C. (June, 2009). Using technology to support learning in a first grade animal and habitat project. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning.
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