By Drew PerkinsDirector of Teach Thought Professional Development
Readers of TeachThought have probably realized that I am a big fan of project-based learning.
I think this is a potential game-changer for a school culture when done well and I’ve written about it before here: what PBL can and cannot do for your school. During the workshops, I am often asked if I think schools should do ‘PBL’, i.e. all day / every day. My short answer is, ‘Ideally yes’ but it comes with several qualifications. One is obviously done well and the other is related to quality. As you can see, PBL is one of the terms that is becoming increasingly generic. Arrange like Clinex or Band-Aid. People often use it as a catch-all word.
See also 8 Project-Based Learning Tips for Teachers
I know this because I have facilitated many workshops where teachers will say directly: “I’ve been doing PBL for years.” Sometimes they have actually been and that’s wonderful. But often this means that they have created a final product after their students front-loading content. Or maybe they’re doing a lot of experimental, hands-on stuff with their kids. Bravo! It’s much better than more traditional drills and kills, standing and teaching ‘old-school’.
Advantages of Project-Based Education 1: It has objectives beyond educators.
But the biggest difference between projecting and really great PBL is Rich search And Truth. While this may not be possible, it may not be possible or even necessary for the full-on PBL to be a permanent remnant of working in that brain-place all the time, almost immediately increasing the level of investigation on the part of teachers and students and much more. Meaningful and purposeful work.
Advantages of Project-Based Learning 2: It promotes research that supports students inside and outside the classroom
One of the features of our PBL workshop is the emphasis on research. We use question formulation techniques to get started and continue the search by focusing on refining driving questions. Deep thinking, those ‘a-ha’ moments that we engage teachers with open-ended questions to help you move forward with energy.
We use questions to help make the thinking process more visible by constantly rethinking what we know and what we need to do. We train teachers in workshops to make money using the Socratic method and inspect continuous growth support. All of this is meant to help teachers build their skills around PBL and also to design a project. But the permanent residue here that teachers consistently comment on is the increase in searches by students and teachers in their classrooms. They are thinking of learning through a different lens and leading the way through more research than pushing content out as a transmission.
Advantages of project-based learning 3: It is (or more naturally) authentic for students and the community
The other part of our PBL workshop and support work that we continually refine is the focus on authenticity. As Simon Senek preaches, it is important to ask why energy is essential and what the purpose of student work is:
- Because the teacher told me to do it
- To earn points
- Because it will be an experiment
- Because you will need it in the future.
These things don’t resonate with most students because they don’t have authenticity and even for students who are loyal and willing to ‘play school’, why not strive for the ideal of increased money and purpose? Students and teachers should have clarity around the product, purpose and audience of the project during PBL implementation. What I (or we) are making, Why, And for whom?
Advantages of Project-Based Learning 4: It integrates curriculum, assessment and instruction.
Increasing the accuracy of the audience and purpose helps push the work towards craftsmanship and makes feedback and evaluation more meaningful. As teachers make these changes to their project architecture and teaching, they tend to be more aware of this dynamic in all their lesson plans and begin to ask themselves as a role model that Why For what they are teaching.
Project-based learning is a significant paradigm shift for most teachers and schools that works to be successful. Teacher (and student) progress in the spectrum of improving their understanding of design and implementation is our long-term and ongoing goal for PBL workshops and support.
However, the valuable residue that survives and grows as a result of that work is the improvement of all teaching and learning towards a culture of more and better exploration of the truth and purpose of all lesson plans and self-examination.
Interested in raising PBL in your school? See our PBL service page.