After learning about collaborative learning, I dug down more to learn about project-based learning. Basically, project-based learning is when students work (usually collaboratively) to solve real-world problems. This is done through role-playing, mixed genre writing, experiments, games and other media. I really like this method of learning because it makes what the students are learning real and relevant. However, project-based learning has received a lot of criticism because some people do not believe that it is as rigorous as more traditional learning. Proponent of project-based learning would argue that it if the teaching in a project-based classroom is not rigorous enough, then the failure should be contributed to poor planning or execution (not to the method itself).
In order to successful with project-based learning, a teacher must carefully consider the project's value. It is not enough to do something "fun" and call it project-based learning. Instead the teacher must consider the curriculum and standards. What are the key points that the students need to learn? What information will they be tested on? After determining which information is most important, I teacher should then come up with thought-provoking, guiding questions. These questions should lead the student to the desired information, without much intervention on the teacher's part. This way the teacher avoids "telling" and the student learns independence and how to research and find answers on their own (which many students prefer versus being lectured to). Projects chosen should support the curriculum and help guide the students toward the information that they need to learn.
Projects can take a single period or they can be so complex that they take an entire semester to complete. No matter the complexity level, a few things remain the same:
- The teacher is a facilitator and coach, not a lecturer.
- The teacher is responsible for thoroughly explaining the project and expectations.
- The teacher should constantly make rounds from student to student (or group to group) to ensure that they are on the right path and to clear up misconceptions or misunderstandings.
- Feedback and assessment should happen throughout the project, not just at the end.
- Learning should take place throughout the entire process, not just at the end.
- Much of the work is collaborative and decisions should be made collaboratively (student-student and student-teacher).
Overall, project-based learning fits well with my chosen teaching philosophy of Progressivism. I look forward to finding ways to using project-based learning in my own classroom.