Project based learning centers on students and how they learn by providing authentic opportunities to create meaning. Traditional teacher and student roles diminish and new roles are formed. The students pursue their own questions to create meaning while the teacher’s role transforms into facilitator and coach (Boss & Krauss, 2007). Students become more engaged in the learning and develop important critical thinking skills that help them transfer the meaning to other experiences.
Our education system has a history of believing that all students have the ability to learn the same thing at the same time (Brooks, 1999). The two classes I found the most difficult in high school were Calculus and Chemistry. The calculus teacher sat in the front of the room using an overhead projector to show examples of problems while the rest of the class and I sat there copying them down and watching the clock. I struggled to apply the learning and changed classes at semester break. My chemistry class was also difficult but we had labs that helped me apply my learning. The chemistry teacher and calculus teacher taught the same way, direct instruction using an overhead projector, but the chemistry class gave me the opportunity for some hands on application. Struggling high school students are often confined to a regimen of excessive teacher talk, rote memorization of discrete facts, and mind-numbing skill-drill worksheets (Wiggins &McTighe, 2008). Both of my high school classes followed the theory that all students learn the same way and can learn it at the same time.
Project based learning gives a different approach to instruction so that students are in charge of their own learning. It promotes collaboration and the integration of technology to help students direct their own learning through real world connections. Students stay engaged because they are truly interested in what they are learning. They are also making meaningful connections so that they can apply that learning to other areas and experiences. Students using project based learning acquire knowledge, create their own meaning and transfer it to other areas of their life (Wiggins & McTighe, 2008).
Boss, S., & Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.
Brooks, M. G., & Brooks, J. G. (1999). The courage to be constructivist. Retrieved on July 4, 2012 from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov99/vol57/num03/The-Courage-to-Be-Constructivist.aspx
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2008). Put understanding first. Retrieved on July 4, 2012 from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/may08/vol65/num08/Put_Understanding_First.aspx