Project-based learning is a need of the hour, dynamic classroom approach in today’s world. In this type of learning, students tend to address problems outside their curriculum.
In layman terms, project-based learning is practical learning beyond the classroom.
However, project-based learning is not just limited to projects. A popular saying, “knowledge is the result of experience” is apt here. Students investigate and respond to problems that exist in the real world. This blatantly goes against the method of root learning, paper-based, that leads them to a direct solution without posing questions.
What is the major advantage that project-based learning provides? Books equip students with the required knowledge and skills. However, the need to use these skills never arises with paper-based learning. With project-based, students tend to utilize existing skills and learn more as they proceed.
Characteristics of Project-Based Learning
The definition of project-based learning captures the gist of the idea.
Here are a few characteristics of project-based learning that tell us why it leads to overall student development.
When planning for a project, students tend to choose a topic. When the topic is set, their information and skill gathering course will be topic-centered. The thinking is intentional, which forms a major part of the process.
This allows them to go beyond the classroom mentality. That way, students are faced with multiple opportunities and develop an aligned way of thinking. This also allows them to develop an attitude that lets them ask and clarify questions.
Authenticity and Independent Research
The beyond the “just for school” mentality challenges student interest and engagement. This allows the teacher to shift from someone who is usually in control. Teachers instead, help direct the children towards their goal. Students shift from following orders to making their own goals and following them.
An added advantage is the removal of the ‘working for a grade’ idea. Students revise and reflect on their work, a form of self-assessment that prepares them for future endeavors.
Collaboration and Assessment
In the professional field, one is often required to collaborate with their teammates for projects. Project-based learning kindles this collaborative mindset at an earlier age. Students can later find it comfortable to learn and collaborate once they enter the professional field
Assessment, in this case, is different, as it could be from multiple sources, not just the teachers. It could always question rather than just advice and answers. More importantly, this leads to improvement especially when the work is authentic and enjoyed by the students.
Assigning Roles and Building Network
Collaboration can really provide an insight into understanding who does which part of the work best. If there’s a student who is good at researching and decides to do that, the data collection must be done by someone who is good at the same. This does not mean that they should strictly stick to their own areas, rather it allows them to collaborate even when roles differ.
Project-based learning can help gather a platform for exchange and growth of skills. This can be viewed as an opportunity to gather more contacts and expand the network of people known.
Reasons to Adopt a Project-based Learning Model
In the 21st century, there is rapid development in every sector of the world. Technology, art, agriculture, education are just some sectors that have seen immense development. All these were only possible due to project-based advancements.
Project-based learning makes school more like real life, which can train students. They show a broader range of capabilities when not limited to a four-walled classroom. Project-based learning encourages various styles of learning rather than traditional text-based learning.
Here are some reasons why project-based learning helps students face the real-life world:
- Students learn while practically applying what they know. They also learn new methods, hobbies, passions during the same.
- Information and skills obtained have a longer chance of retaining in a student’s head. This is when compared to text-based which is rarely retained.
- Project-based learning involves physical visits to field sites. This builds experience and paves the way to an “outside the box” thinking
- In this method, there isn’t just a teacher to impress with. Or grades to obtain. Here, an authentic audience is present, expecting solutions. This sort of exposure leaves an impact on students. This allows broader thinking.
How to Implement Project-Based Learning?
There are several ways to assess a student. Out of all these, text-based assessments are the most popular, simple way to do so. A method that is challenging for both, teacher and student is project-based learning.
Unlike text-based, project-based goes beyond just suggesting a topic and letting students do the rest. It begins with an idea and an essential question. It requires preparation and planning and effort to execute.
There are certain factors to keep in mind before trying to implement this type of learning. Multiple forms of assessment are necessary and new knowledge and skills have to be developed. The assigned work must utilize and question the curriculum.
A small guide on the basics of implementing project-based learning is as follows:
- Start with a topic that is relevant and motivates students
Your students know what happens within a classroom or an educational institution. However, are they aware of what happens beyond? Are they aware that they are a part of it and could find the necessary tools to bring about change?
Select a topic that makes students believe that they have an impact on when they answer. This brings about interest and a driven focus.
- Designing the blueprint
When you involve the students in planning, they feel a sense of ownership. This is usually not brought about by text-based learning. When a teacher allows a student to make decisions and plan the required steps, they become actively involved.
There are many ways a teacher can with the initial plan, a key step towards success. They can integrate several subjects and help with materials and resources required. This fuels active student participation.
- Integrate discipline, by creating a schedule
Time is an important factor to consider. It is easy to postpone materials and deadlines but your students must realize that these deadlines are serious. Deadlines for finalizing thoughts, ideas, and materials is crucial to the entire project.
Even though a flexible timetable can be adopted, certain issues need to be highlighted while creating a schedule. The number of days allotted, if it will be during school or after, setting benchmarks, managing time, and sources to approach with queries are some of the issues.
It is natural for students to feel distressed at times, but as a teacher, your goal should be to tread them on the right path again. Asking the students reason for their actions, analyzing them can help them stay on course.
- Monitor the members and the progress
Maintaining control even when students are making decisions is done by monitoring their progress. This holds them accountable for the actions they have done and the things they need to learn.
Even when students have chosen primary roles, it is equally important for them to take responsibility for other roles as well. Their love for learning can be further facilitated by the effort you put in and the guidance you provide.
Make sure you remind them that each student’s effort is the only way to a collaborative, successful result.
- Assess the outcome
Assessments are important as the project proceeds. In times where self-assessment is possible, make sure to do the same. This allows kids to look and improve within and around themselves.
Providing diagnostic feedback that helps them and allows them to set standards of efficiency is a good assessment. This not only helps students but also teachers. Making students understand what they’re good at and how they can improve is a great step.
- Evaluate the experience
While students learn new things, it is just as important to take some time and reflect on them. Before reflecting on the things that they have learned, rushing onto newer things is not recommended. It leads to an unfinished learning experience
Rather, it is recommended to take time and reflect on materials and study, individually or as a group DIscussing what worked well and what needs to change brings about leadership and collaborative qualities.
Project Versus Project-Based Learning
Projects are not to be confused with the concept of project-based learning. There is a major difference between the kind of information that projects deliver and the ones that project-based learning does.
In simple terms, a project is something that is usually assigned by the teacher. Usually done at the end of the unit, it’s done so that the students get to know more about a topic. It usually has the student doing a particular task under the rules of the teacher.
Project-based learning on the other hand has applications beyond the classroom. This puts more responsibility on the students. Here the project is not just an add on after the unit, it is the entire learning process itself.
|Majorly focused on the topic, with the entire process surrounding it||The process is the learning part, with the application of knowledge and skills|
|Demonstrates knowledge and skills for grading purpose||Demonstrates knowledge and skills for real-life situations|
|Involves the application of content learned in lessons||Requires fostering skills like critical thinking, collaboration, self-assessment|
|It is the result of the learning process||The project is the reason for the learning process|
|Need not necessarily require collaboration||Collaboration and teamwork, dedication to solving problems as a team is required|
Understanding Project-Based Learning
To understand project-based learning, the first step lies in understanding that no one is in “control” of it. Traditional projects have always sorted the power within the teacher. Students merely follow the rules and regulations to acquire the results.
In the case of project-based learning, power is decentralized. It is the students who are involved in the process from the very beginning. Students and teachers work together to decide on a strong, relevant to a real-life situation that they can work on.
The process begins with a collaboration between students and teachers. Further, it involves collaboration between students and the networks they develop. Collaboration forms a crucial step in the process.
Students may be assigned roles or take roles based on their own talents and skills. However, they shouldn’t limit themselves to a role. It is all about taking responsibility for their own actions and as a team.
Students plan the entire process out, with guidance from the teacher. The teacher plays an important role in guiding them in the right direction. Even in times of distress. That way, the students can plan effectively, learn to stay on track, and proceed with objectives.
In the case of projects, an assessment is usually done at the end. Grading is often done to determine how efficient the project is. The entire assessment usually stops there. With project-based learning, the assessment continues throughout the process. This allows teachers to assess at times, and for self-assessment as well.
The results of these projects are usually projected onto a real-life audience that judges it. The grading system is not in use and the assessment and ability to take away the good points come into place. The results and insights obtained have the potential to change real-life situations rather than stay within a four-walled classroom.
Components of Project-based Learning
The process involved in this type of learning focuses on the steps and the outcomes. When followed the right way, project-based learning can be a fun, focused task.
Before starting the project, the topic is usually decided with the efforts of the teachers and the students. Students must feel free to enquire about topics that they do not know much about.
Planning the entire process shouldn’t necessarily be rigorously strict. It can be flexible, but certain deadlines and important dates must be highlighted and taken seriously. Certain decisions must be taken at the right time to ensure hassle-free execution.
The topic may require understanding stuff within and outside the curriculum. Hence, students require sources that allow them to learn with clarity. The teacher need not be present for every topic learned.
Material created by students might not immediately be perfect, but can be, over time. Redoing certain topics and learning things can help them create accurate content. They learn to distinguish the right from the wrong, over time.
Unlike grade based assessment, these take a larger toll on students. The project is presented to the audience who are directly affected by it or use it. The weightage of the project is more.
Students tend to become serious about their goals as they realize they are making a change in society. Their work impacts society and brings about change.
Challenges in PBL
In the case of implementing project-based learning, one must keep certain things in check. An open, honest mind, assessment wherever necessary and constant scrutiny is necessary.
Even after enduring all the work to complete the project, students may be unclear regarding the outcomes. In such cases, they can receive guidance. This allows them to think from a broader perspective.
In some cases, there may be a dearth of trained personnel. The teachers who have been assigned the task can rectify these situations. They can learn to engage more with the students. They can train themselves to provide proper information.
Teachers can also suggest other networks and trained professionals. Students can benefit from reaching out to such networks and growing their own network.
Prior to starting, motivation can be an easy thing to gather. However, as challenges are faced and work for piles in, students may feel lethargic. It is important to constantly remind them of their goal.
A teacher’s help can go a long way in keeping a student’s direction on the right track. Constant support and reaching out in case of queries are some ways.
Even though the entire idea of Project-based learning is easier in theory, implementing it has great benefits. It allows for holistic student development which is difficult to offer within a four-walled classroom. Students tend to also learn more topics, maybe even take up a career in the future under the same topic.
The possibilities that project-based learning offers is endless. It has challenges of its own, dedication, and teamwork required for completion. The outcome that is gained, is beneficial for not only the student but also the community.
Hence, schools and colleges are encouraged to adopt this model of learning. It is, after all, the students of today who form the nation’s workforce tomorrow. Having a brighter, dedicated workforce contributes to the strength of the nation.
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