There are people that are still very wary of project-based learning. I understand that there are questions about why it is better than other pedagogical approaches. There are some educators that are afraid to try and add PBL to their classroom because their school/district is chained to standardized tests and the thought is that PBL doesn’t prepare students for those types of assessments. I wanted to give a few reasons why PBL is worth exploring in your classroom.
1. Active engagement – One of the things that is amazing about PBL is the fact that students are actively engaged in the process of learning. In a traditional model, students are passively receiving the information. When a student is actively engaged, they are more likely to retain the information. If standardized tests are a worry, PBL will allow students to retain more of the material covered in class. Another nice part of active engagement is the energy that comes to the classroom. There are few things better than a jumping classroom because students are actively exploring a variety of interesting topics.
2. Soft skill work – When students are working on their projects, they are also getting a chance to work on their soft skills. Communication, collaboration, time management, and other skills are important when working on complex projects. Students will work on these skills many times over during a year filled with projects. Again, the traditional classroom, format has everything structured for the student with very little need to work on the soft skills. A student can sit in the back of a traditional classroom all year without being actively engaged. Those soft skills are important for everyone to have as they mature and enter the workforce.
3. Ownership – I used to tell students, “If you can’t get excited for the project you chose, why on earth would you get excited about the one I choose?” When students choose their project, they have a sense of ownership of their work. They take more pride in it and they commit to the ins and outs of it. There are times when students need to jump through hoops and complete mandated work, but that is true for most people in their jobs. Doing the boring stuff is required so you can do the fun stuff. When the students get to choose what the fun project is going to be, they take full ownership of it and get to work.
4. Class culture – Classroom culture is important in every school. Creating a community of learners is not easy task. I noticed how students all came together during their different projects. They supported one another and offered feedback and cheered each other one when it was time to present. Students were far more respectful of a student presentation because they know how hard they worked and they wanted the respect of the class when they presented. The bonds that are formed by group projects are an amazing thing to watch. Groups form and create amazing things together and I would hear them talk fondly about them years later. Those memories are connected to the content in a way traditional note-taking instruction could never accomplish.
5. Differentiation – Our students are on an educational journey and they are all at different points on the trip. PBL allows for students to choose projects, set goals, and share their work in ways that meet their needs. Not all projects are going to look the same and that is a good thing. A classroom full of students will be filled with a variety of IEPs and 504s. As a teacher, crafting different assignments for each of those students every time one is needed can be too time consuming. Allowing more choice in their work with PBL lets the students adjust their work as needed. That way, all of the students will be able learn in a way that is best for them. Over time, I did not have to help those students tweak their projects because they learned what would push them to do their best.
These are just a few reasons why project-based learning is a great thing to bring into your classroom. There are so many other reasons! Check out my book on PBL in the classroom and feel free to reach out if you have questions or are interested in PD on this topic.
Hugs and High Fives,