There is a great amount of time and energy devoted to project based learning lately, yet this concept of teaching is not new. In fact, PBL has been around for some time and there are thousands of resources online to support this pedagogy. So what exactly is PBL and why do we need to embrace it? The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has a nice article about “The Case for Project Based Learning” and they are in the process of redefining their standards to further embrace this approach to learning. In looking at the latest 2016 Education Technology Plan (NETP), PBL is implied throughout the document. Educators are asked to include skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking into their daily lesson plans.
Grasping lifelong skills goes beyond the learning of curriculum. Students must be able to apply and transfer their knowledge to real-world situations. Teachers have always been responsible for making teaching and learning robust and meaningful for students, but they now must provide them with opportunities to inquire, think deeply, and reflect on problems and issues in society. To do this, we need to realize that our students are gathering information differently than the traditional ways we were taught as students and accept the use of mobile devices in the classroom. With these devices, students now have access to more information within a vast global network to participate in an atmosphere that assists them in becoming "future ready learners."
The Buck Institute for Education is a wonderful resource for getting started and using PBL in the classroom. Here you will find checklists, rubrics and sample projects to use per grade level for your PBL experience. As a guide and a pre-plan, you could set up a classroom Symbaloo to share with students so they can easily access tools and resources throughout a project. Here is a copy of a sample Symbaloo as an example. It is all about putting the learning in their hands and creating a student-centered environment. Students can use these tools to plan, organize, present, and reflect on their topic. With PBL, students sustain inquiry by “generating questions, finding and using resources, asking further questions, and developing their own answers”(BIE).
What more can we ask for when preparing them for the real world? In the end we require our students to reflect on their learning. As teachers we also need to reflect on our teaching. Did the project accomplish the goal? Did adjustments and changes need to be made to fine tune the overall experience? What would we change? What would we add or delete? Using PBL should be a work in progress subject to change. Don’t be afraid to start small, try new approaches, and take different paths. By letting your students lead, they will certainly clear the way!