Project Based Learning
Proposal: The integration of project based learning into the curriculum
The following proposal incorporates the key points made in the following sessions at ASB Unplugged 2012:
- The “Power of the journey” session based on project based learning presented by Kevin Crouch and Scott Hoffman
- The institute session on “Constructionism and project based learning” led by Gary Stager
- Project-Based Learning led by Andrew Churches
What is Project Based Learning (PBL)?
Edutopia.org states that project learning, also known as project-based learning, is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups.
During the power of the journey session PBL was defined, using the review of project based learning by John Thomas as
- Central, not peripheral to curriculum
- Focused on questions or problems that drive students to encounter and struggle with central concepts and principles of a discipline.
- Involve students in constructive investigation
Why should we use project based learning?
Gary Stager identified the 8 big ideas, which are embedded within PBL, as opportunities for:
- Learning by doing
- Using technology as a building material
- Hard fun
- Learning to learn
- Taking time
- Can’t get it right without getting it wrong
- Do unto ourselves what we do unto our students
- We are engineering a digital world where what we know is as important as reading and writing*
*I appreciate the sentiments of this last big idea but feel it should just say information technology is now an invaluable tool in PBL environments.
What are the requirements for a successful PBL experience?
Andrew Church makes it clear the planning is the key to the success of a PBL unit and he promotes the use of the 4Ds approach (Define, Design, Do and Debrief). Due to the freedom of pathways the students have it is vital that clear objectives and a final outcome are in place as clear progression signposts. Gary Stager stated that “a good prompt is worth a 1000 words” and from his experience it was most important that a successful PBL experience had:
- Good prompt
- Appropriate materials
- Sufficient time
- Supportive culture (including expertise)
All in all a clear grasping of the objectives and outcomes with sufficient allocated time, materials and effective support are the key to the success of a PBL unit.
So why do I want to adopt PBL?
I am excited by PBL as I think that it will provide a different learning experience to what students normally receive. Such a method explicitly requires students to find their own pathways of discovery. This freedom also better reflects the results driven real world unlike the carefully structured faux-enquiry based learning path often seen in school classes. Furthermore the inbuilt collaborative element requires students to develop the skills required to work with others. The outcomes I am looking for are a deeper understanding of key ideas and the opportunity to develop crucial life skills.
Where do I want in introduce a PBL unit (1)?
The year 11 MYP science unit on energy provides a great opportunity for PBL. A project requiring the construction of a Rube-Goldberg machine and the measurement of energy transfers throughout provides a context for knowing how to make energy calculations and consider the factors which impact efficiency. I also feel that such a project would provide an opportunity to evaluate the approaches to learning (ATL) skills developed throughout the MYP programme and produce a vital jolt of something different.
Where do I want in introduce a PBL units (2)?
It has become apparent that some students at my school will struggle with the requirements of IB Diploma Science. My school is presently introducing year 12/13 non-IB alternative science course which I feel would benefit from a number of PBL units such as:
1) Growing what is required for an organic salad and using this as a driving force to consider world food requirements and the benefits of both GM and chemical solutions.
2) Building rockets as a driving force of fuel consumption, aerodynamics and mechanics
3) Producing ginger beer to consider fermentation process and enzyme use
4) Camera production to consider optics and photochemical reactions
In reality this course will not be trying to develop future scientists but work on enhancing the science literacy of these students so that they can be more informed in the future. So a parallel science in the news presentation element will also be included requiring students to consider and explain opinions.
How does information technology enhance project based learning?
In both examples information technology tools will provide crucial opportunities to do more than ever before, with greater ease than ever before and share those findings with more people than ever before and so also enhancing their own technological skill set and crucial confidence.
Examples of such opportunities which will support:
- Making measurements using probes and data loggers
- Sharing information in a collaborative group using Google docs
- Journaling the process using blogs
- Considering various (and sometimes opposing) information sources using the internet
- Bookmarking relevant information using tools such as Delicious and Diigo
- Analysing data using spreadsheets
- Connecting with other experts and interested parties using e-mail and Skype
New International School of Thailand