Project and Problem Based Learning for Everyone

Students are just like any other type of people: they are all different. With diverse interests, abilities and skills – not all students respond the same to structured learning.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin

In modern times I would change the last part of the quote from ‘involve me’ to ‘engage me’ and this is a key factor in both Project and Problem Based Learning.

Project Based Learning is a student centric pedagogy, which uses open-ended problems that encourage students to communicate, collaborate and problem solve. They are usually based on real world problems, which encourages deeper learning and facilitates team building, skill sharing and many other 21st Century workplace skills.

The ability to analyse a problem; decompose it into its component parts and to develop a solution is a skill that’s useful in any job. Understand the skills or knowledge required to solve a problem and then either learn or work collaboratively with others is critical in an ever-changing workplace.

Passion Project

Projects in Practice

When working as a group or a team each student brings something different to the table; this fosters inclusivity and helps students acknowledge where their strengths lie. A project I ran at a school in the US involved a group of students developing an online magazine. They needed to create a website, review games, and keep the site updated. We needed coders, graphic artists, reviewers, writers, photographers, editors and researchers.

The group self-managed and each person had an active role in the magazine. The feedback from readers, particularly from real games manufacturers, raised the self-esteem of this group of students dramatically as their voices and critical thinking was validated not just by their peers, but by people working in the entertainment software industry.

Project Based Learning can easily lend itself to teaching an existing curriculum, with outcomes requiring learning techniques or skills specified in a National or Regional Curriculum.

For example, Magpie Education has a weather station base, which includes a segment on alerts. One solution mentioned is to use IFTTT.COM to look at weather data and then email alerts based on rainfall or temperature. A great example of if statements and decision trees from the English National Curriculum.

Learning for the workplace

Resources to help with getting started with PBL:

  • This 90 minute course on the Microsoft Education Network provides some useful insights and ideas
  • Teacher John Spencer’s blog provides some great easy to use materials for getting started with PBL in the classroom
  • To put together a PBL lesson plan this framework is very useful
  • Lots of ideas and resources from educators posting to the hashtags #pbl and #pblchat on Twitter

Some further reading:

Passion Project

Project Based Learning can be used to teach almost any subject with limitless possibilities for what those projects focus on. When a student works on something they really care about which is related to personal interests or solves a problem they are passionate about their engagement skyrockets. The learning outcomes are far more likely to be longer lasting than solving problems they don't take a personal interest in. Perhaps it is only when you learn with full involvement that you get the lifelong skills which will be beneficial for thriving in a work environment.

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