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Project-based learning helps Kids Solve Real World Problems.

Updated: May 10, 2020

Reading, Writing, and Math skills are not enough. We need 21st century skills.

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 21st century 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.

By bringing real-life context and technology to the curriculum through a Project Based Learning approach, students are encouraged to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners. Teachers can communicate with administrators, exchange ideas with other teachers and subject-area experts, and communicate with parents, all the while breaking down invisible barriers such as isolation of the classroom, fear of embarking on an unfamiliar process, and lack of assurances of success. PBL is not just a way of learning; it's a way of working together. If students learn to take responsibility for their own learning, they will form the basis for the way they will work with others in their adult lives.

Project Based Learning

If you would have asked me a decade ago if I thought Project Based Learning would ever expand beyond a small pocket of innovative schools I would have said “I doubt it”; I could never have imagined that it would be such a widely-used buzzword in 2020. To my pleasant surprise it has expanded to mainstream vernacular and is continuing to sweep across schools in our country.

And yet, despite all the buzz surrounding it, there still is a pretty wide range of understanding as to what high quality PBL is, and more importantly, how to plan for and facilitate it. To many, PBL is met with uncertainty and apprehension; while terms used to describe PBL, like organized chaos, productive noise, and student-driven sound appealing to some, for the majority it creates a lot of unnecessary ambiguity.

To most teachers’ surprise, I like to think about PBL as a structure, almost a formula, that can both uphold academic rigor and also engage students. To show you what that structure looks like in action, I’ll walk you through how I define PBL.

Before we jump into how to approach planning a project, it’s important that we are operating from the same definition of PBL, because there are many! After researching many topics related to PBL, I came to arrive on the following as my non-negotiables for a project to reflect high quality PBL:

  1. It is grounded in standards.

  2. It incorporates best practices of assessment for learning.

  3. It’s authentic to the given community.

  4. It explicitly scaffolds and assesses 21st century skills.

So what does it look like to put these non-negotiables into practice and plan a project? THIS WILL BE DISCUSSED IN A FUTURE POST


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