When it comes to modern education, there are so many approaches to learning—from traditional, formal methods to holistic, hands-on styles. In this article, we’ll discuss a student-centred approach known as project-based learning.
We’ll start by discussing the basic details of project-based learning before diving into some distinct features and benefits.
The basics of project-based learning
At its core, project-based learning is a dynamic, interactive teaching method where children investigate a complex challenge or problem over a lengthy period.
The idea behind this approach is that actively engaging with real-world problems helps students develop a more profound understanding of the issue.
Also known as PBL, project-based learning is the brainchild of American teacher and pupil William Heard Kilpatrick. The method comes from ideas proposed by Kilpatrick’s mentor, John Dewey, along with similar theories such as the Montessori method.
Main components of project-based learning
While a student’s experience with PBL will differ from project to project, several core components underpin all project-based learning activities.
These components include:
- Authenticity (i.e. real-world challenges, concerns, or problems)
- Inquiry and investigation
- Student choice
- Community partnerships
- Revision and feedback
- Public presentation
- Standards (i.e. developing relevant skills and knowledge about the project’s content)
These components follow no particular order but instead occur concurrently across the project’s course. For example, students will reflect upon their work before beginning a new project, while working on it, and after its completion.
Project-based learning examples
One typical example of project-based learning involves creating a business plan. Students will proceed through each step of starting a new business—from brainstorming concepts to market research to creating a financial plan.
Another example involves designing and planning a fundraising campaign for an important issue. Working in groups or alone, students will choose a topic that matters to them, helping drive a genuine interest in the project.
From there, students will begin planning the fundraiser by considering their target audience, preparing a call-to-action, and creating a poster or infographic.
Students may also try designing a mobile app using tools such as Apple’s developer platform. By engaging with such a project, students will build essential problem-solving skills and develop their technological knowledge.
How does PBL differ from traditional school projects?
While school ‘projects’ are as commonplace as any other kind of traditional education, they differ significantly from authentic project-based learning.
Traditional projects tend to focus on the outcome (i.e. an oral presentation, essay, or poster) more than the learning process itself. The project content may not reflect any real-world concern or issue and typically has one correct answer or result.
Conversely, PBL focuses on the learning process, revolves around real-world challenges, and emphasises ongoing iteration, investigation, and discovery. The results of these projects are dynamic, student-driven, and open to further research.
Project-based learning is an interactive and dynamic educational approach. It involves investigating, analysing, and reflecting upon various concepts to develop a solution to a real-world challenge, problem, or concern. Through PBL, students develop vital skills, including teamwork, adaptability, employability, and independence.