As educators we often think about how to challenge our students and get them excited about learning.How to inspire them to think out of box and solve problems creatively?How do we show our students that what they learn has real world application?Project based learning or PBL can be the answer to all the above.The National education policy 2020 of India also talks about pedagogy for students that is inquiry driven,learner centered discussion based and enjoyable. PBL fulfills the requirement.
What is Project Based Learning ?
Project based learning(PBL) is a student centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach. It requires student to work on a project for an extended period of time, actively exploring real world challenges and problems ,leading to acquisition of deeper content knowledge and skills. PBL integrates knowing and doing .Students not only learn elements of core curriculum but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems .PBL refocuses education on students.
The core idea of Project based learning begins with an open ended , driving question or challenge that captures students interest and provokes serious thinking. A typical project presents a problem to solve, e.g., how can we use data to reduce our families impact on the environment ? Or How waste in local waterways contributes to the problem of plastic in the ocean ? These are open ended problems with no one right answer. It is important that the driving question should have real world application.It should initiate a inquiry process, wherein, students apply the learned knowledge ,ask and answer critical thinking questions and locate resources. In PBL the students have a voice and choice in the whole learning process. PBL also allows students to make the project available to the public.For eg; students in science class may create a sustainable redesign for public places in the city and present it to the city officials rather than simply learning from text book and presenting in class.
Origin of Project based learning
PBL may sound new ,but its roots goes back to the times of Aristotle and Socrates who modeled how to learn through questioning, inquiry, and critical thinking; all strategies that are relevant in today’s PBL classroom. Fast forward to 20th century ,John Dewey ,an American educational theorist and philosopher, is recognized a s one of the early proponents of Project Based education through his idea of “learning by doing”. He challenged the traditional view ,of students as being passive recipient of knowledge .He argued for active experimentation that prepared students for ongoing learning about a dynamic world .PBL is also related to Jean Piaget, a swiss developmental psychologist, through his “situated learning“ perspective. His insights laid the foundation for the “constructivist approach’ to education ,wherein, students build on what they know by asking questions ,investigating ,interacting with others and reflecting on these experiences. PBL ,as a pedagogy,later drew from Perception-based theories on education proposed by theorists such a Maria Montessori and William Kilpatrick .Today it is one of the key pedagogy required to learn 21st c skills.
Why PBL ?
Body of research has shown that PBL leads to deeper learning of concepts and greater retention of content knowledge .Students are better able to apply what they know to new situation. Research by Zhang Morris& Anderson 2016 comparing PBL with direct instruction showed that PBL students demonstrated far better decision-making skills than either the direct Instruction or the control group students. PBL students considered more than one side of a dilemma, used more comprehensive reasoning, and more frequently evaluated the importance of the assumptions underlying their decision making. Research in Michigan 2017 on project-based learning in high-poverty communities showed that it can produce statistically significant gains in social studies and informational reading. Best part is that it increases student engagement as they enjoy working on the projects and solve problems that are relevant to them and community.
With PBL students gain 21st c skills valued in today’s workplace and life . Projects are often assigned in groups .Being able to work collaboratively with others is an important work skill. Projects involve discussion and are often assessed through presentation which helps develop communication skills. Students also learn to take initiative ,think critically and solve problems creatively.
Good project can be transformative .When students see real world impact of their work it gives them a sense of purpose. PBL also promotes Creativity and use of technology as students use spectrum of technological tools from conducting research to creation and presentation .Teachers work closely with students doing meaningful work leading to greater satisfaction and rewarding relationship.
To sum it up PBL has enormous potential to better prepare students for the work force they will be entering while helping them to remember and enjoy the learning a lot more on the way.