Project based learning is an approach that gives students the opportunity to learn using hands on techniques. Instead of being “talked at” by a teacher while sitting in a classroom, students are able to complete projects that are intriguing, engaging and relevant while also meeting all of the curriculum standards.
According to Edtopia, there are five key components to successful project based learning. These components are:
Real world connections
Students are presented with, or come up with on their own, a real world problem. The students come up with solutions to these problems. Some examples may include problems with animals, water sources, community resources, etc. Project based learning allows the student to connect the curriculum with what is relevant to their lives.
Core to learning
The curriculum presenting with project based learning meets all of the core standards. The projects that the students complete are not “fillers,” they are the entire curriculum themselves.
Students work together as a team and play different roles within the team. This aspect is the most interesting to me because I can see how this in itself can prepare students for the real world and working with their future employer and future coworkers. This aspect alone prepares them with the social skills to respect others opinions and to fulfill their responsibilities within the group.
Students have a lot of the control over their learning. Teachers are encouraged to only give hints and to not give students the answers. This helps tremendously with problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Instead of teachers testing the students, they use different forms of assessment including self-assessment. I think self-assessments are extremely important because it allows the students to be accountable for their own progress and, in the end, what they take away from each project they complete.
There are so many advantages to using this approach. While some students are able to learn in a classroom listening to lecture, many students are hands on learners. I also see an advantage when it comes to the inclusion of special education students- they can easily be included and allowed to collaborate with other students. It also allows the students to show off their work and achievements. I know how proud my own children are when they bring home a project from school. This can really help to boost their self-confidence. A few disadvantages that I can see is that more resources will be required. This can include extra staff or materials needed to complete projects. You may also get a few students who cannot work together in a group or several students who just do not get along.
A few key elements to how a project based classroom would look include:
A collaboration friendly set up. This include having large tables, an area large enough to work in large groups, access to white boards, etc.
The teacher is not in the front of the classroom, but is assisting from the “sidelines.”
It could look something like this.
Looking at the Trees Around us is an example of a project based learning curriculum that was used in K-1 grades in Alberta, Canada. I found it at The Project Approach which has loads of useful information, even curriculums available for download.