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The Strength of Project Based Learning
posted by: Melissa | May 03, 2013, 03:37 PM   

As teachers look for new and creative ways to drive student instruction, more of them are turning to project based learning (PBL).

The idea behind project based learning is to combine knowing and doing. By completing a high-quality collaborative project, students both learn the content material and simultaneously apply it to an authentic situation.

PBL differs from a teacher-assigned project in several ways:

• It is student driven, not teacher driven. Students are often allowed to choose their end product, groups, and ways of completing their work.
• End products are authentic in nature (think building a house vs. making a poster-board of a house).
• Feedback and constant revision and reworking of the project are often necessary.
• Often, the end result is presented publicly.

Since PBL relies on authentic experiences to drive student learning, it is a great way to drive student interest. Proponents of project based learning point out that it also is a way to combat the narrowing of the curriculum and to allow students to pursue the topics that interest them. A PBL classroom does not rely on a set course of books or materials, but opens itself up to a world of possibilities instead.

However, students can often become mired in the complexities of the projects and lost in their efforts to complete it. Project based learning is not an excuse for teachers to sit back and void their responsibilities. If anything, teachers must be more involved and work harder in their attempts to keep students focused and on task and to provide meaningful, relevant, and timely feedback.

Implementing project based learning requires rethinking how we structure the school and how we organize our classes. Not only does learning need to move beyond "sit and get" in a PBL environment, but the school day must change as well. Classes need to be longer with time for students to complete projects and the resources necessary for student research. Teachers need to be more collaborative and should be provided that time during the school day. Technology and professional development need to change. Teachers in this environment don't need to know the latest teaching method, they need to be experts in their field and know where to find the resources that will drive student learning and interest.

 For more information on project based learning check out Edutopia's project based learning blog.

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