Project Based Learning Explained

The Buck Institute for Education commissioned this video to explain the basics of Project Based Learning (PBL).


5 responses to “Project Based Learning Explained

  1. Have you seen this video featuring Sir Ken Robinson’s voice with animation?

  2. Will,

    We definitely need more project-based learning in schools. Traditional learning is often mind-numbing and pointless (information is just being thrown at the students for no apparent reason) and focuses on just “facts” and not applications and definitely not on thinking. Bad traditional education has produced flocks of students who are as capable of independent learning and thinking as a robot is.

    What good does it to do to learn all these Civil War facts, for instance, if we have no idea what the Civil War tells us (beyond just facts about what happened)? What good does it do to learn a lot of science facts but cannot recognize phony science (and some stuff is passed off as science that is phony)? What good does it do to learn math facts but cannot use math in any meaningful way?

    Not only does project-based learning encourage students to learn applications, to learn meaning behind facts, to learn to think, it also reminds us educators that students need to develop some very important skills that cannot be assessed via written traditional tests. Such projects also help students to learn to realize that being stuck on a problem does not mean that we lack the ability to solve it and that many problems of genuine interest cannot be solved in 5 minutes or less. When it comes to mathematics, for instance, many students think that a math problem is one that we should know how to solve in 5 minutes or less and that, if we cannot, we are stupid.

    Real problems are also often messy, vaguely stated, lacking information, giving too much information, etc.; real world problems are not always “nice and clean” like traditional textbook exercises are. Project-based learning can give students experience with actual “messy” problems.

    Jonathan Groves

    • Jonathan,

      Excellent comment! Thoughtful as always.

      I liked this part: “Bad traditional education has produced flocks of students who are as capable of independent learning and thinking as a robot is.” The robot metaphor is interesting. Generally, at least for now, robots follow procedural orders with minimal adaptation. I suppose that is also possible with teaching human beings, but it seems pretty obvious that in the world that we live in now, we need citizens, workers, leaders, and friends who can adapt their learning to new and changing situations. Otherwise, the learning becomes obsolete very quickly.

      Thanks for being part of the IL Jonathan!


  3. Will and others,

    I should mention another comment as well: From my experience with math education discussions, I can say that another reason that traditional testing is often promoted over project-based learning is that many want excuses to continue thoughtless teaching, the kind of teaching we can do on autopilot. That is clear to me because they resist anything I have to say that suggests that teaching should be thoughtful not only for the teacher but also for the students.

    It is also clear that many of them are uncomfortable with assignments and assessments whose grades are not a definite right or wrong grade. They love standardized multiple choice math exams because the grades on them are either right or wrong. They also love traditional math tests because they are easy ways to test students: Tradition tells us what should go on such tests. But what should go on a math test that assesses students’ abilities to solve problems they have not seen before? That assesses their ability to think about math and not just regurgitate solutions to template textbook examples? The answers are not so clear cut, and they don’t like that one bit! I do find that such answers not being so clear to be problematic, but we must be willing to look past that, especially since this problem will never go away, if we are to offer quality math education to students.

    Yet here is a paradox: The lack of clear cut answers to such questions is not so bad because it promotes creativity in teaching and learning! How can we become creative teachers and learners if all such questions are already answered for us? How can we be creative teachers and learners if our assignments and exams and discussions and so on look like everyone else’s?

    Jonathan Groves

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