When thinking about assessments, we think of tests, quizzes, homework, worksheets and projects. Projects used to be a “once in awhile” assignment, sometimes in partners or small groups, which was graded with a rubric or scoring tool. Due to the time it took to complete, it was not the regular teaching method. In recent years, there has been a lot of research into the benefits of project-based learning and the literacies that it develops.
Project-based learning (PBL) is defined as a teaching methodology that encourages students to gain the skills necessary so that they can solve a problem, investigate an engaging or complex question, or meet a challenge. It fulfills standards, gives a real-world context to their learning, allows for self-reflection and continued revision, and is individualized to the needs, skills, and preferred learning of each student. Differentiation is automatic with project-based learning!
My personal favorite part of project-based learning is when group members help each other with questions and answers as they work through their idea together. With that said, it has its pros and cons:
Project-based learning can support the best parts of hybrid or blended learning - a small amount of direct instruction that is supported with equal amounts of collaborative and independent work.
When deciding on project-based learning units, use this guide to help you decide if you are implementing it successfully. Please also note that in many cases, technology is a helpful tool that will create these opportunities for your students, but it is only a tool and it is not always the best one. Can you believe I said that?! It’s true, though. I love e-mail, but I also love hand-written notes.
As we saw in our last post, lots of teachers across the district are already using PBL and reaping the benefits of it:
- our gifted learners do a combined research and art project with Megan Munyat and Deanna Dincher
- our 8th grade ELA students design and advertise a new app idea during their propaganda unit with Pam Cooper and Jen Allen
- our AP History students created an infographic about the presidential candidates and their positions on a number of election topics, then created a screencast on it and published it to YouTube with Amy Swartz
For more information on project-based learning, check out these resources by Edutopia.
To brainstorm project ideas, see your librarian!