How often do teachers or administrators hear those dreaded words, “Will we ever use this again?” or “Why are we learning this?”. Learning skills separate from their real world situations can make it difficult for students to understand the post-academic applications. Project-based learning could be the answer to all of these questions and more.
What is Project-Based Learning?
Project-based learning (PBL) asks students to explore an engaging, complex question or problem. To demonstrate what they have discovered, students create a presentation or real-world product for a real audience. This approach asks students to dive deeper into the learning process and relate it to the world at large. PBL shows students what they learn in the classroom is relevant and essential.
Because PBL is a student-centered approach, the benefits are extensive. PBL allows students to have a louder voice in their learning. Students are able to decide what they focus on and how that information will be presented in the end. This level of ownership and responsibility encourages students to go deeper. This in-depth exploration of a topic or problem allows students to develop a better understanding of the problem and the skills they are developing. More importantly, perhaps, this level of choice helps students enjoy the learning process all the more.
PBL For All
The best benefit to PBL? These projects fit into any subject and are accessible for every type of learner. With this level of choice, students are able to play to their strengths while developing new skills. Besides that, PBL allows for creativity and flexibility which lends itself to any subject or content.
Tips to integrate PBL in a STEM curriculum
1: Make it realistic
Create a real-world situation or problem for students to focus on. The end product or presentation will be treated as a solution to that problem. This set-up creates a tangible goal and further motivates students.
Example: Ask students to create a product to create clean water
2: Encourage collaboration
Learning is hands-on and involved. Many times learning involves trial and error. To help in that process, get students involved with each other. Students don’t need to work in groups, but can discuss proposals and ideas in group settings.
Example: Ask students to create a proposal for their clean water product to share in small groups.
This sample activity shows you how you can integrate PBL in a STEM curriculum.
3. Add in cross-content standards
PBL provides the perfect opportunity for cross-content interaction. Because these projects are longer in length and more involved, students can see how different subjects interact. Ask students to look up the history of the problem or issue they are exploring. The history of these issues can help students make more informed choices in their final presentations.
Example: Ask students to research the history of a reputable clean water project and include their findings in the presentation.
4. Visualize the end product
It’s important that students have an idea of their end product in mind. After many rounds of critiques and revisions, students can analyze how their end product can be improved. This helps students develop critical thinking skills and creates a better product in the end.
Example: Ask students to draw or outline their final product. Be as specific as possible and add any questions or ideas they are still flushing out.