Mar 16, 2014

Project Based Learning

What is it? How can I use it? Will it really increase student engagement?



Project Based Learning is all about giving the students the opportunity to have authentic learning experiences, where they are in charge of gathering the knowledge. I think about this all the time as a teacher. I went to elementary school and learned very similar things that I am teaching my students. I always struggled with math as a student, but now that I have to teach it I understand it much better. Would I have been a better math student all those years ago if I were learning and finding the information myself? If I would have had to explain my thinking and work in collaboration with my peers, I know I would have been a better math student.

I watched these three videos about Project Based Learning to gain a better understanding of what it looks like in a real classroom. I LOVE that they show primary students doing it as well!


I don’t know about you…but I always question what my young students are able to do. I do not want to overwhelm them with something that is too complex. I really need to let go of that! Because what is the worst that can happen? It may not work and we would have to try something different! Trial and error is a great lesson!  

The three lessons from the videos have very similar design structure. Each lesson is crafted so that the students can explore a real word topic within the walls of their classroom. There may be times where they gain knowledge from field trips or experts, but most of their research is done in the classroom using a variety of technology. The role of the teacher changes in a PBL classroom. The teacher becomes a facilitator. The teacher does most of the preparation before the students walk into the classroom. The teacher will prep the classroom so that it is ready for groups of students to conduct research and gain knowledge about the topic they are studying. The students go from sitting in quiet rows to working in busy collaborative groups.

This approach changes things! It puts the job of learning in the hands of the students. If they do not know the answer they work together with their teacher to research the answer. It gives them more control over their learning, which leads to higher student engagement. They are creating meaningful work and the stakes are higher. They students have higher motivation and all around learning is increased.


These articles and videos are making me question my own teaching practices! What can I do different? I want my students to learn, understanding, and then have the ability and knowledge to teach the topic to someone else! I cannot wait to start using Project Based Learning into our classroom!

Here are the the resources I used! 

"March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies' Migration" - Diane Curtis, Edutopia
http://www.edutopia.org/march-monarchs 

"More Fun Than a Barrel of . . . Worms?!" - Diane Curtis, Edutopia
http://www.edutopia.org/more-fun-barrel-worms 

"Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning" - Sara Armstrong, Edutopia
http://www.edutopia.org/geometry-real-world-students-architects

1 comment:

  1. Very nice analysis of the three PBL exemplars. One of the key components you noted was students taking responsibility for their own learning. PBL definitely shifts this from teacher to student. Thanks for the post.

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