An Introduction To Project-Based Learning.
A teacher says, “On March 24th, you’re going to stand in front of your peers. You’re going to stand in front of your parents. You will have data. You will have graphs.”
Just like this, a Seattle teacher, Scott McComb, once outlined a project to his ninth-grade physics class that would have them creating, building, and testing various wing structures that they would design in teams.
McComb is part of a growing group of educators who believe project learning is the most effective teaching method. Try right now. So you know how to do it.
When you think about project-based learning, learning that results in demonstrations of performance, real tasks that have brought challenges to students to solve, you can see that it’s in context with how kids have to be functioning like adults. It’s quite an improvement if you think about it well. Remember, our first wing seldom even holds water! We have to give it a good try it needs.
Project learning is a hands-on student-directed activity in which students create something that demonstrates what they have learned, whether a website or a play/drama or a wing design portfolio would be a better example rather say.
The first thing the students have to do is give up the idea of curriculum, meaning you have to learn this on a given day. It would help if you replaced it with a system where you learn this where you need it.
That means you’re going to put kids in a position where they will use the knowledge that they get.
Projects involve in-depth investigations of subject matter which are often guided by experts who enrich and supplement the teacher’s knowledge. We do this in the real world, too, and it’s very cool. That’s I’m hoping for you to see how cool it is!
Students like doing hands-on projects more because they feel they learn better from their first-hand experiences. When doing the wing project (the wing design project mentioned above), they learned that their first wing was bad, and their third wing did well. They are so proud of themselves!
Benefits of Project Learning
- Increased academic achievement.
- Increased application and retention of information.
Other Benefits of Project Learning
- Critical thinking.
Current research shows that project learning can be more effective than traditional instruction in increasing academic achievement. It is also effective in helping students understand, apply, and retain information. Other benefits include building skills like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
Outcomes of Project-Based Learning with Example
Students who partake in project-based learning show increased motivation and engagement in their studies. Regarding the already mentioned wing design project, one student says, “Our task was to create a high-efficiency, low-weight wing that when tested it would, you know, it would show the values that you’d want for a rear wing.” The way the kids present themselves, they know what they’ve learned. They’ve been able to work together, and in a situation like this, for ninth graders to pull off something like that is remarkable.
Solving Real-World Problems: Bringing Authentic Context To Learning
At Two Rivers Public Charter School – Young Elementary (an Elementary school in Washington, D.C., United States), students acquire knowledge and skills by addressing actual problems facing their community.
For example, the teacher asked, “So how can we improve it so that it’s clear that there’s more than one thing?” and a student answered, “You could just go to the tab that says that category.” Another boy points out to a cat that some cats make the ecosystem healthy – another example of the teacher’s question. The teacher found their awesome ideas and would love to share them with their community.
Because our students solve real-world problems, they see themselves as important, thoughtful people who can grapple with really tough problems and make decisions that have meaning. They call themselves “School that work” – Two Rivers Public Charter School, Washington, DC. The key practice they follow is solving real-world problems – bringing authentic context to learning.
The Two River school is a preschool through eighth-grade public charter school in Washington. Their mission is really to help all students develop a lifelong love of learning.
Problem-based learning is at the heart of what they do. The school authority thinks that learning is really important, but it’s for a purpose, and that purpose for the kids is to solve some important problem for them and their lives.
Let’s have another funny yet lively example from the 1st-grade class at that school. What was the problem we’re solving here?” and the one little kid responds, “People think that spiders are disgusting and gross.” Another boy answers, “Horribly.” the teacher agrees and one of the stories that she reads about spiders, how are the spiders portrayed.
People think that spiders are scary or dangerous, and actually, they’re not. The teacher has been working on their spider stories for quite a while because they are the way that they’re solving our problem.
Why write stories?
It changes people’s minds.
What else can it change?
A spider may be a broad-faced sac spider. Every student studied their spider. They researched all of the attributes of that spider. Then they had to take those facts and create a story around them. The story will be about
This writing project is helping them learn how to write better because you can look back at your research, and then you can know the facts, what the teacher hopes that she is building the kids like tiny problem solvers. It’s an appropriate way for them to practice those lifelong skills.
When I identify a quality problem, I think about the authentic context that I can situate that problem. The school website needs to teach kids all about the river ecosystem. That school is called Two Rivers, and one of those two rivers is the Anacostia, which is not swimmable or fishable. Both its problems and how they can make it healthy again.
So they’re creating a website for the school.
Then they start to think about this third question, “What changes can we make to improve?” They get to teach kids about the Anacostia and what makes the ecosystem healthy.
Partnering with the Anacostia Watershed Society is giving kids the idea that this is a real-world connection. The student works with Two Rivers. The students are taking part in an authentic restoration project.
You have to, like, figure stuff out. We go on field studies so we can see what it looks like. Solutions like rain barrels, wetland plants. Everything that they do every day is impacting the water. It’s much more powerful for them to be involved in something part of their community.
As kids move through school, they all are working on these problems. But as kids move forward in class, they work with more philosophical problems outside of their direct community. For example, is the conclusion covering a variety of stances on gene editing or not.
ConclusionConsidering different points of view, considering different data points, asking for expert opinions, and ultimately coming up with a solution. That is the goal of Solving Real-World Problems: Bringing Authentic Context To Learning.