Project Based Learning

Project-Based Learning is a method that involves students in a long-term in-depth investigation of a real world challenge. Instead of raw memorization of facts or following instructions that present a smooth path to knowledge, students work on a problem that develops several skills simultaneously. By doing so, they are more likely to retain information, develop their creativity, communication and critical thinking. Plus –  they learn how to learn!

The full story
Intro to PBL

If we ask ourselves what we actually remember from school or kindergarten, three things come to mind: friends, field trips, and, finally, projects. If we retain certain things well, but tend to forget others, we should ask ourselves, what should an education look like that focuses entirely on experiences that can actually be remembered?

definition
Definition

Project-based learning is a pedagogical approach that involves students in a long-term, in-depth investigation of a real-world challenge. 

So instead of memorizing established knowledge or following an instruction that offers a fast path to facts, students actively work on a problem that allows them to develop several skills simultaneously.

To understand the difference, we can look at the experience pupils have in a conventional class led by Mr. Listen and compare that to what they take away from doing a project with Mrs. Do. The objective: learn how to engineer a tall tower. 

Conventional class
Conventional class

In the conventional class, the students sit at their desks and look at the blackboard. Mr. Listen first goes over some principles of physics, and then instructs the students that are still able to pay attention, to design the optimal structure for a high tower.

Project-based learning (PBL)
Project based learning class

When doing project-based learning, or PBL, the students sit in groups. Mrs. Do then gives each group 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti, scotch tape, a cotton thread, and some marshmallows. Then they are told they have 18 minutes to build the highest possible structure that could hold up the spongy confection.

So what will the kids in the different classes learn? And what do their minds remember? 

conventional class result
Conventional class result

With Mr. Listen, all kids might learn something about towers, a few might learn some engineering and one could, in theory, learn to construct an ideal tower structure. But, just a week later, most will have forgotten everything.

PBL result
PBL result

Mrs. Do’s marshmallow tower challenge activated the kids’ brains in various areas and taught the children something about construction, creativity, physics, and teamwork.  

Maybe more importantly, they learn that if they fail the first time, they can try again and still succeed. They learn to learn. And even decades later, some might still remember that day.

The benefits of project-based learning include high engagement and a greater depth of understanding. They practice communication, critical thinking, and creativity, and as a result, often experience better learning outcomes in general.  

best practice for class
Best practice

Randomized controlled trials involving thousands of students demonstrated that project-based learning significantly outperformed traditional curricula, raising academic performance across academic disciplines.

The best teachers often combine projects with traditional instruction or run what’s known as active learning classrooms. So that students get to make sense of trying, failing, doing, and the theory from the educator. 

what do you think?
PBL WDYT

What are your thoughts about learning through projects? Since education is allegedly not about what the teacher covers, but what the students discover, is it the better way to learn?

Sources

Dig deeper!

Classroom activity

The marshmallow tower challenge is a problem-solving activity that involves building the tallest structure possible using only a limited set of materials. In the marshmallow tower challenge, participants are typically given a set of dry spaghetti noodles, a marshmallow, and some tape or other adhesive material. They must use these materials to build a structure that is as tall and stable as possible, with the marshmallow on top. The challenge is often used as a team-building exercise or as a way to teach students about engineering and problem-solving. It can be fun and engaging, and can help participants develop creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.

Here are two versions of it:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Activity-Spaghetti-Tower-Challenge-1106671

https://branchmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Marshmallow-Toothpick-Engineering-Challenge.pdf

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