Principles of Project-Based Learning
The author of this article talks about the importance of using Project-Based Learning in the educational process and analyses its principles. She stresses out the main aspects that are necessary for creating high-quality products and performances.
Project-based learning has become extremely popular in two past decades. What are the reasons for it?
Project-based learning has gained a greater integrating in the classroom as students become more engaged in learning when they have a chance to dig into complex, challenging, and sometimes even messy problems that closely resemble real life.
Project-based learning goes beyond generating student interest. Well-designed projects encourage active inquiry and higher-level thinking (Thomas, 1998). Brain research underscores the value of these learning activities. Students' abilities to acquire new understanding are enhanced when they are "connected to meaningful problem-solving activities, and when students are helped to understand why, when, and how those facts and skills are relevant".
(Bransford, Brown, & Conking, 2000, p. 23).
However, a great number of teachers avoid project work as it is time-consuming and requires a very busy schedule. But class time will not be wasted on projects as the work the children are doing is very important for their language development. They will think about English and use English to produce an excellent final result.
Some teachers dislike it when students speak a lot in their mother tongue and it can get very noisy. To avoid these problems teachers should equip children with the classroom language they need for projects and set rules before doing the project work. Our students must understand what is good noise and what is excess noise and that excess noise is not allowed.
What kind of projects can be considered really good? In their article “8 Essentials for Project-Based Learning” John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller, educators with the Buck Institute for Education, identified eight essential elements of meaningful projects. Thus every good project should have the content which the teacher thinks is essential to understand about the topic and which is significant in terms of teenagers’ own lives and interests.
Then teachers can activate students’ need to know content by launching a project with an “entry event” which can be a video, an excursion, a discussion, a guest speaker, etc. The most important reason for increasing students’ motivation in project work becomes clear: I need to know this to meet the challenge I’ve accepted.
There can’t be a good project without a driving question which should be provocative, open-ended, complex, and linked to the core of the subject. A driving question helps students understand why they are undertaking a project and gives them a sense of purpose and challenge. Moreover, students find project work to be more meaningful if they are asked to conduct real inquiry when they ask their own questions, search for resources and discover answers, generate new questions, test ideas and draw their own conclusions. So questioning, hypothesizing and openness to new ideas and perspectives are the key elements of the classroom culture.
While doing a project students should have enough voice and choice – they can select what topic to study or choose how to design, create, and present products. The role of the teacher is to provide a limited menu of options to prevent students from becoming overwhelmed by choices.
Involving into project work means building such 21st century skills as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and the use of technology – important skills in the workplace and life.
In conclusion I would like to stress out that creating high-quality products and performances needs immediate feedback, revision and public presentation.
John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller, Educational Leadership. 68(1)
“7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning”
Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Intel® Teach to the Future. (2003). Project-based classroom: Bridging the gap between education and technology. Training materials for regional and master trainers. Author.
Thomas, J.W. (1998). Project-based learning: Overview. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.
Thomas, J.W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. San Rafael, CA: Autodesk.