Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method that consists in learning through identifying a real-world problem and developing its solution.
Students work on their own projects throughout the year. This is called "self directed" learning because you don't have to do anything except provide them with materials and support.
If you were looking for a formal definition "The term "project based learning," also known as inquiry-based learning, refers to the use of authentic problems, tasks, activities, and/or investigations within the context of instruction."
How does Project Based Learning differ from “doing a project”?
The difference between doing a project and using PBL lies not only in how long it takes, but also in what happens during this process. In a traditional classroom setting, students are given assignments, they complete these tasks independently, then turn in their results. The teacher grades each student individually based upon those individual results. This approach has been used since the early days of education when children would be taught reading, writing, arithmetic, etc., all through independent study. In contrast, with Project Based Learning, students work collaboratively throughout the entire process. They have an assignment or problem to solve, which requires them to collaborate with other students who may provide different perspectives and ideas. As they progress through the course of the semester, they must continually evaluate whether their solution meets the requirements set forth by the instructor. If so, they can move forward; if not, they need to revise their plan until they find one that works.
How to use Project based learning?
Essential elements of project based learning
1. Define what students have to learn.
Obviously, we want students to learn, so the first thing to determine is what the information and skills the teacher wants them to acquire.
2. A driving question or challenge.
A need to know is a powerful way to engage students. It poses an authentic problem, challenge, need, or issue at the start of the unit. Typical projects present a problem or challenge to solve (What is the best way to reduce the pollution in the schoolyard pond?) or a phenomenon to investigate (What causes rain?).This problem or phenomenon has to fulfill an educational purpose.
3. Student Voice and Choice
This element of project-based learning is key. To make a project feel meaningful to students, the more voice and choice they have, the better. However, teachers should design projects with the extent of student choice that fits their own style and students.
4. 21st Century Skills
A project should give students opportunities to build such 21st century skills as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and the use of technology, which will serve them well in the workplace and life.
5. Inquiry and Innovation
Students find project work more meaningful if they conduct real inquiry, which does not mean finding information in books or websites and pasting it onto a poster. In real inquiry, students follow a trail that begins with their own questions, leads to a search for resources and the discovery of answers, and often ultimately leads to generating new questions, testing ideas, and drawing their own conclusions. With real inquiry comes innovation a new answer to a driving question, a new product, or an individually generated solution to a problem. The teacher does not ask students to simply reproduce teacher- or textbook-provided information in a pretty format. (ascd.org)
Ask students to create a list of questions they generated after the entry event. Ask them if these are the same as those listed by the instructor. If not, then this may indicate that the teacher did not pose enough questions during the entry event.
6. Feedback and Revision
Formalizing a process for feedback and revision during a project makes learning meaningful. Teachers have to coach students in criteria to critique one another's work, and review the work of the students.
Why to use project based learning
1. In PBL classrooms, students demonstrate improved attitudes toward learning. They exhibit more engagement, are more self-reliant, and have better attendance than in more traditional school settings. (Thomas, 2000; Walker & Leary, 2009) Teachers may need time and professional development to become familiar with PBL methods, but those who make this shift in classroom practice report increased job satisfaction. (Hixson, Ravitz, & Whisman, 2012; Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009) Most (PBL) facilitators express that they have greater (enjoyment of their role as teachers within a PBL classroom setting)teacher satisfaction (Cho & Brown 2013) (magnifylearningin.org)
2 .Improved Critical Thinking Skills
3.Helps develop employability (21st Century) Skills
As mentioned above, one of the main goals of PBL is to help students gain 21st century skills including collaboration, leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, creative expression, etc. These skills can be developed through projects like these. Students must work together to collaborate on a project, communicate effectively about it, present it to others, evaluate its quality, and then use it to address a pressing social issue. This type of skill set helps prepare our youth for future careers.
4.Improved academic performance
When compared to other forms of instruction, research shows that PBL improves both short term and long term outcomes including higher test scores, lower dropout rates, and fewer disciplinary referrals. In addition, when comparing PBL to lecture format courses, researchers find that PBL increases retention by up to 50% over two years.
Example of project-based Learning:
Bake a cookie using only heat from the sun.When teachers present a real life challenge such as baking cookies without electricity, students begin to understand what happens during combustion. They ask questions like, "How does air get inside my oven?", "Where did I put my ingredients?", and "Can I bake another batch?". Students then design experiments to test out hypotheses and develop new theories. The goal isn't just to cook food, but rather to explore the nature of heat and its relationship to other forms of energy.
Consider creating a "escape room" exercise in which students act as code breakers for the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or another federal agency. 20 Decoding a message that may potentially expose the site of a planned terror attack on the United States, tracking down an organized crime syndicate, or any number of situations could result. Following up on the initial exercise, students could submit their solutions on the day a professional in a relevant field (e.g., an FBI agent) visits the class to connect the activity to a real-world experience and potential career path. In such circumstances, your only constraint is your professional creativity. 21 Decoding a message that may potentially expose the site of a planned terror attack on the United States, tracking down an organized crime syndicate, or any number of situations could result. Following up on the initial exercise, students could submit their solutions on the day a professional in a relevant field (e.g., an FBI agent) visits the class to connect the activity to a real-world experience and potential career path. In such circumstances, your only constraint is your professional creativity.