Project Based Learning Process
College experience for many students is amazing in terms of social life and personal experience, while it is often referred to as boring and daunting considering academic career. And while we understand that basic skills have to be taught, we also believe there is so much more any college and university have to offer. Traditional courses are taught the way we all remember them: lectures, few practical classes, essays, and exam. What’s fun and intriguing about that? Today we would like to talk about something borrowed from the IT-world and is called project-based approach to learning.
Problem-Based Learning vs. Project-Based
While many professors have their concerns and doubts about this new, if not revolutionary, learning approach, many studies have shown that students involved in project based learning perform at least as good as those who are approached the regular way. They also have proved to be able to address the question in a more complex way understanding what needs to be done on each stage.
The problem with a regular approach based on performance based learning is the fact it is not that rewarding and motivating.
What is Project Based Learning?
Project Based Learning (hereinafter referred to as PBL) is a teaching method which helps students work on complex questions, gain skills and knowledge base extremely relevant to the real life. It is focused on the learning process by addressing specific elements, such as:
- sustainable learning: students are engaged in the process of asking questions, looking for solutions, and finding the best approach;
- skills, knowledge, and understanding;
- a challenging task, being either a meaningful question or a problem they have to deal with;
- authenticity while dealing with the real-life tools and tasks and referring to personal interest or experience;
- decisions and choices as well as an understanding of the consequences of such choices;
- reflection on the process, effective evaluation of the learning process;
- revision (students give and receive feedback in order to improve performance);
- a public product that includes a presentation to the general public and people other than their fellow students and professor.
We can almost see the raised eyebrows of both teachers and parents asking where are the grades? The measuring unit for each course should be the learning project – a certain research idea the student(s) presents by the end of the course.
Benefits of Project Based Learning
For some weird reason, not only teachers and professors keep asking the same question over and over again: why project based learning is important? Let me answer the list of things I find most important and appealing.
- is more engaging while it encourages students to be pro-active providing the meaning to the learning process.* improves learning by giving a deeper understanding of the subject and encourages self-studying in the process.
- builds success skills by giving a chance to take the initiative and responsibility for the actions taken.
- helps address the standards of modern career: critical thinking, collaboration, communication skills, and speaking.
- encourages the use of technology by inspiring self-studying and thorough communication.
- promotes educational equity as they can equally contribute to the project and evaluate the impact on the world.
- provides real-life application by providing relevant experience.
- encourages team play and helps students find their strength.
There is one trick though. All project based learning benefits you see above can be achieved and reached only in the safe learning environment. Students have to find the balance between feeling safe expressing their idea and understanding personal responsibility for completing the project.
Creating a Learning History
One of the things that make PBL so amazing is the fact it completely changes earners experience through creating an amazing learning journey and provides every student with personal experience.
Many students have faced the problem of getting bored of regular teaching and having to the interest of doing another boring class just to get them through.
Let’s say the task is to create a new monument. If we are talking about problem-solving the typical and the quickest way would be to replicate an existing monument, while PBL would require doing their own research, looking for someone great to honor, and creating a project to convince a committee to build it.
It would involve multiple genre reading and writing, a task that involves multiple skills and are relevant to real-life situations.
What is even better? PBL cares about education process and the idea to make everyone onto the ride.
Problems We Have with PBL
Okay, it’s not all that fairy-tale-ish, so every teacher who dares to incorporate PBL into their teaching process will be facing several issues along the way.
- While dealing with a project, students have less time to actually learn the material itself and might experience some troubles having to face the examination.
- Many professors do not have specific training to provide effective project based learning or teach courses that might be difficult to approach this way.
- This type of learning experience doesn’t fit the students who lack self-motivation and self-organization.
- It is also the matter of safety as completing this task students may be forced to work unsupervised to deal with someone who is not a trained educator.
- PBL suggests much more effort from the professor as well as way more trust to their students.
Let’s say you are a high school teacher, and you need project based learning ideas for high school English class. While learning language is important, pay tribute to any home languages students may speak in your class or take students on the round-the-world trip by encouraging them to research borrowed words from other languages and creating a map to show this. Do you feel intrigued by the outcome? So do we.
Help students see the world from your perspective by creating a project of teaching English to someone else. Build empathy and understanding of sustainable society by taking the responsibility and teaching language those who need help.
While we could not cover every single aspect of the importance of project work for students, we do hope we’ve ignited the spark for further research. We know it may be hard, but yet this is a quickly changing world we are living in, so we have to adapt in order to motivate students to get the grade and get their degree in general. Good luck!