Thursday, July 3, 2008

***Discussion #1: Project Based Learning

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”
William Butler Yeats quotes (Irish prose Writer, Dramatist and Poet. Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. 1865-1939)

Your final project will involve the creation of a learning project; let’s begin a discussion on this important approach.

In Chapter 1 of our book Meaningful Learning with Technology, the authors argue that the currently dominant driver of instruction in our nation’s public schools is Standardized Testing and resultant efforts to produce impressive “scores”. They argue further that in this “testing” context the type of learning that results is not meaningful. Furthermore, they indicate dimensions of learning that in their opinion are missing, things like Active Learning, Constructive Learning, and Authentic Learning. They follow this line of reasoning with the question “How does technology facilitate learning?” They list ways they feel technology should be used fruitfully for learning and the ways it fosters learning.

In Recapturing Technology for Education: Keeping Tomorrow in Today’s Classrooms Scarecrow Education (January 28, 2005) I included a section titled “Reinvigorating Learning with Technology” which was excerpted in the article The Truth about Professional Development (scroll to the bottom). This is my own list of ways I feel that technology profoundly impacts teaching and learning.

All this theory is well and good, but will be best understood by reviewing real world examples of student projects (an approach that the authors of Meaningful Learning with Technology highlight). I’d like to offer the following examples of technology focused and supported student learning projects:

If you’ve entered teaching in the midst of the standardized testing focus, you may not be well grounded in the theory behind student learning projects. Take a look at these links to get a quick idea of what it’s all about:


In what ways do you feel Project-Based Learning as an approach to instruction is especially useful? In what ways do you feel it presents challenges to teachers?

Do you see this as an idea that will become important down the road or an appealing fad idea that will go away? Why?

Please feel free to share your reactions and react to those of your classmates. Also, can you share with the class an example of a student learning project (not listed above), preferably one that is supported by technology? Use the comments function of the blog to enter into the conversation (participating in this discussion may count as a required discussion participation).


Ohkono said...

PBL is useful to teachers because there is more of an emphasis on colloboration, real-world skills;like research, investigation and creating solutions on the spot. Unlike inquiry-based activity, project-based instruction forces students to manage their own time and present ways they have learned from the project. As adults, we all know that when you are reaching for a goal, it is the journey that you take to get you there that lends itself to alot of satisfaction and lessons learned. Students are constantly learning and being challenged while involved in projects, that by the time their prioject is complete, they have enaged in meaningful tasks. The downside to PBL is management of students. Often times, teachers have to have a certain level of control and confidence in their students to allow them the autonomy to begin PBL. It may be beneficial to provide IBL prompts and heavily scaffolded assigmnets to prepare them for PBL. Some students feel they are without a safety net in these situations, I have noticed my students with IEP's need alot of handholding when assigned to PBL assignments. All in all, PBL is invaluable to students' casual learning and should be used by most teachers when applicable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ohkono's pros and cons of PBL. I intend to develop more projects because a, they give direction to units that may otherwise be disjointed. Further, assuming the PBL is to be published or displayed publicly (with technology?), they should offer inherent motivation to students. The cons as previously mentioned may include class management, are not necessarily a real overwhelming concern of mine as long as I am sure to have a lesson plan for each day our class meets. Just because we have a project, does not mean I as a teacher do not have daily planning even if it means organizing group norms and routines. I'd say a good way to keep kids on task is for them to be held accountable to a classwork rubric (, a daily presentation of group ideas, or an "exit slip" which outlines their daily productivity.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ohkono in that PBL can be a dynamic learning opportunity for studnets including academic and real world skills and lessons. I like the idea of how PBLs naturally unify units and lessons into a continuous whole. I especially believe they can be successful when studnets know their work will be published or displayed publicly (website, etc). As far as class management goes, studnets need to be held accountable daily, and so perhaps a class work rubric can be explained to them (see, a daily presentation showing their progress, or an "exit slip" written in the last 3 minutes of class showing what was accomplished that day.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of my classmates and what they have said about the pros of project based learning. Project based learning not only holds students to high expectations, but students take ownership over what they learn in school because a lesson not only relies on incoming information but rather on student produced outcomes. It also teaches students that learning is a process that contains many steps and procedures. I think of writing projects I have done with my lower elementary kids in which we take many days before we actually start writing our 'actual' writing.

ESL Rivera said...
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ESL Rivera said...

Most of us come from a childhood were linear learning was supreme. Everything taught followed a non-divergent path and sequence, and so everything taught usually served as a prerequisite to what was to be taught later. (Emphasis on "usually.") While that type of teaching may seem logical/efficient/great (and many of us have emerged better for it), I don't believe that approaches recognizes that much of what is learned is not the result of direct instruction.

PBL on the other hand, does.

As ohkono points out, "it is the journey" that matters. The act of sharing & receiving knowledge with yours peers involves a different kind of manifestation of knowledge then that which arrives from teacher-directed lessons, among other things.

Also, with PBL, we successfully enter the age of accountability... In other words, with the end product in hand, teachers can assess student learning on multiple levels - levels which test data by nature cannot account for. But together, I believe a fair picture of a students' progress can be possible. So, yes, I do believe PBL's here to stay.

CLYS said...

There have been many comments discussing some of the benefits of project based learning. Of course I saw many benefits for my specific population that I teach, i.e. English Language Learners (of course this is what most of us teach). For example, just understanding PBL means there are many possibilities, such as including different modalities (kinesthetic, visual, tactile, etc) into a project. I also think that extended time is great for ELLs, it allows more time to make learning focused and meaningful. In addition, making it interdisciplinary provides cohesiveness and helps students know why they are learning something and how it connects to other subjects.

Daniel Von Gieck said...

PBL is especially useful for students to be able to make real world connections in school. I looked at several of the example projects listed on Mr. Gura's blog and saw how technology can support issues that are relevant to students' lives or communities. A project may be connected to real professions through use of authentic methods, practices, and audiences. Real world connections might also be made by communicating with the world outside the classroom, via the Internet or collaboration with community members and mentors.
This method of using PBL to help students make real world connections is something that I would like to try more of in my third grade classroom next year. I agree with ohkono that the downside of PBL is learning how to manage these long-term projects; howevere, like any other learning curve, I feel that once we get into the rhythm of assigning these projects, we will soon become experts in PBL management. There is only one way for new teachers to find out: trying out PBL next year!

Mireia said...

The pedagogical model of the school where I currently work is based on student-centered collaborative learning and where project-based learning guides the curriculum design. I think that one of the most challenging features in planning a project is to create adequate assessments. When planned effectively, PBL offers the possibility of making learning constructive by using authentic assessment that helps ESL students reflect on the development and outcomes of their projects. In the process of developing any project, students need the support to construct complex thinking from key concepts. This scaffolding supports not only their language development, but also their learning of the content for each subject. Another essential feature is collaborative work: students are required to work in groups to complete their projects and classroom, and they also assess their peers' learning through rubrics. Group work helps keep students accountable for what they have learned collaboratively.

jamie said...
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jamie said...

Currently, the agenda of my school is to become thematically aligned across the curriculum, and this is where I have seen PBL work well within the social studies and ELA classes. I recently finished a themed base learning project on activism integrating the civil rights era from the social studies curriculum. Although it was difficult to orchestrate in terms of content and scaffolding, it was equally difficult to infuse technology as I am not extremely tech savvy. But, with outside partnerships, PBL allowed my students to actively participate and demonstrate their skills in areas they felt dominate in. The tech piece included posting pictures they took from disposable cameras on a blog page where other students could see and comment on them. Using the technology brought consistent enthusiasm from my students. We then made a slide show for the school accompanied by hands on art projects and writing activities. This project seemed to foster community within the school, as other classes were doing similar PBL's that included technology,and cohesiveness throughout my class sessions. There was heightened energy in the class that called for more pronounced classroom management, but nonetheless, a very fruitful experience for the students and myself. Especially for ESL students, PBL can provide invaluable learning experiences allowing otherwise shy students to shine and take on leadership roles.

omgeducation said...

I like project based learning because, as Daniel Von Geick said, it creates authentic learning experiences for students. Instead of simply studying a scientific concept from a textbook, students can actually conduct the experiment and then use the results to do work in the community or in the school. On the whole, my school does not use this approach, as we use Teachers College's scripted literacy program. However, the last unit of study that we worked on was "social issues"--things like homelessness, divorce, environmental issues, and immigration. As the culminating product from the unit, we had students make posters to put around the school giving their peers advice on how to deal with certain social issues. The students seemed inspired by this process and constantly pointed out their work in the hallways. In the coming year, I would like to have more extensive projects and not just focus on simple end-of-unit products. I think that would make the learning as a whole more meaningful and students would feel more invested in their work.

Mr. Gaulke said...

I see three problems in implementing a PBL curricula:

1. PBL assumes the student possesses enough intrinsic motivation to explore curricula creatively through their work. Many students in our populations come to school with significant emotional challenges that might prevent this from happening. Too much freedom in creating assignments can be problematic for students at certain developmental levels.

2. PBL assumes that can work collaboratively. At our middle school, we have tremendous problems doing this as the amount of friction that can generate between cliques and individuals seems insurmountable at times.

3. As Mireia mentioned, PBL puts a much larger burden on the instructor for assessing as students will easily surpass an instructor's level of expertise and risks losing credibility in the eyes of the class. I don't mind looking incompetent in front of my kids, but I can't help but think they'll pay less attention to my lessons in the future.

These reservations aside, I do believe PB&L presents a superior teaching model. It might take me years however, to feel comfortable as a PBL implementer.

Julia said...

Like my classmates, I think one of the biggest challenges in implementing a project based framework is classroom management. As a first year teacher, this is something I struggled with throughout the school year. As such, I am wary of giving my students a lot of freedom in the classroom, which seems to be an inherent attribute of project based learning. On the other hand, I really agree with project based learning from a theoretical perspective; meaningful, collaborative work seems like a wonderful replacement for standardized testing preparation. Accordingly, I hope to be able enact effective classroom management that allows for project based learning and other tasks that encourage autonomy in my students. As to whether project based learning is merely a fad that will eventually go by the wayside, I am unsure. Certainly there are many trends in education that seem like the next big thing and subsequently fall off the radar. However, as we as a culture (hopefully) begin to realize that every man or woman for his or herself is not always the best option, collaborative styles of learning may become more the norm. So perhaps I am saying that I do not know if an emphasis on projects themselves will remain, but hopefully we will continue to value more collaborative learning.
-Julia Hynes

Lindsey said...

It seems that everyone agrees that PBL is an effective way to teach. However, I know at my school we follow a strict curriculum that allows for little flexibility from the teacher. Hopefully PBL will become the new wave in education and therefore become adopted by more adminstrators. I also wonder if it is possible for PBL to become widespread while we still have such a large focus on testing. Although PBL would quite possibly help improve student scores, adminstrators seem to stick by tried and true methods to help them get their scores-based bonuses. - LINDSEY

gmale said...

ethan goldwater SAYS:
You are all right on. PBL is brilliant way to organize activity (any activity, really).

It is essentially deconstructive, in the sense that the components of the learning process are made modular. Through each task, specific proficiencies, skills, and problem solving abilities become relevant to learn.
The student feels the freedom to problem solve in their own creative way, and the teacher can focus specifically on teaching the student what they need to know to better solve their problem. It may be a bit of a struggle... yet through this struggle the pragmatic student will have removed the obstacles in their way. The less pragmatic student may try to destroy the situation, but let us not become cynical. Projects help us overcome.

(the burden of boring worksheets, standardized tests, less futuristic visions, etc.)

That is to say, in a properly designed project there is space for creative solutions which reflect the different kinds of learners we are. In the exploration of a project, the end product may be an altered form. It is important for the teacher to punctuate moments of in which the student has progressed: this may be required for inspiration. The ways in which the teacher makes the sequence and the context of the flow of work time immediately structured in the project: this is the challenge the teacher has: to understand individual needs in their group's dynamic.

Technology serves a useful triangulator, as it mediates the dynamic of power in the teacher/student relation. The student is on the machine they know and feel powerful with. Really, students are on myspace and aim constantly, using it to get what they want. It is important to make references to prior knowledge when you do a project, in order to encourage the use of different kinds of knowledge.

Georgia said...

As someone who has never used PBL before I am curious about the assessment of project-based learning.How do you all provide feedback to students who will essentially produce work which represents their specific learning? Is it counter productive to establish what your expectations are before the project even begins?

Georgia said...
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Hannah said...

I agree with both Daniel Von Giecke and omgeducation that one of strong advantages of project-based learning is the creation of an authentic experience. In being given a long-term goal, collaborating in a group, and managing their time in reaching that goal, students are developing the skills that they will ultimately need for success on the college level and in the workplace. In addition, the students are given the opportunity to take ownership of the classroom and of their learning, and they may even gain a sense of responsibility for the other students in their groups. Then, too, PBL opens the door for real-world connections, allowing students to explore real social or political issues that they may not be exposed to on a daily basis - or even social issues that take place in their own neighborhoods.

While I am unsure as to whether it will be important down the road, I believe that elements of PBL will become increasingly incorporated into the classroom -- particularly the emphases on social responsibility and global connections.

Deirdre said...

In my opinion, PBL learning is especially motivating because it can allow students the freedom to explore an area of interest within a subject area. They are learning in an authentic way through researching and collaborating with others and improving writing, technology and presentation skills throughout the process. This motivation they have for their topic of interest can help them through points of frustration along the way. It is also a good way for the teacher to really learn about the students, which is one of the keys to being a good teacher.
As I consider the challenges involved I agree with ohkono that students with IEPs may need lots of support during these projects. This is relevant to my situation next fall, because I will be team teaching a group of 25 special needs/ESL students. I think if I plan very carefully and go slowly, this could be an opportunity for kids who may lack confidence to really feel proud of themselves in front of the group after completing the finished product. For ELLs in general ed, I liked collegefootball's suggestion of a daily rubric to keep them on track. For my special needs students, I was thinking of just using a KWL chart which could
be used to guide learning and monitor progress.

sewai yam said...

As we all know students tend to perform better at a task when they have more of a vested interest in the topic at hand. By giving students the choices and responsibilities that are inherent in PBL, I believe that we can promote self-actualization, autonomy, critical thinking and social intelligence. However, in order for PBL to be a success it must be a joint decision between administrators and teachers.

In the school that I work in we have gone through 3 instructional models within the past year. This constant shift has resulted in confusion among students and staff and has stifled the growth of first year teachers like myself. In consideration of my own situation, I think that PBL could be implemented in the future only if it is a natural step in the evolution of the school. If it is yet another model that we are trying out because the current model is not yielding results quick enough, then it will end up as just another fad idea.

Michelle Mangan said...

Most of us seem to agree that PBL looks very good on paper; project- based learning and collaborative group work in all its glory can inspire students to direct their own learning and interact with their environments in creative ways. The reality of most of our school environments, however, is still far from being conducive to this type of learning. Coming from an elementary school that also relies heavily on scripted curricula and test prep, I recognize the structural limitations in implementing PBL in ESL classes. However, my experience with PBL in a supplemental enrichment program has given me hope that we are not necessarily so far away from being able to integrate this style of teaching into our classrooms. I found that the biggest challenge to PBL in making a documentary film with students was finding a balance between structuring activities and granting students unlimited freedom of ideas. Eventually it was possible to give students a heavily structured freedom that still allowed them to create original work but with guidance and a lot of management on my part. I don't think this is necessarily the answer to all of our issues with PBL, and unfortunately it seems as if it is still a model used primarily with gifted children that have time to explore ideas outside of test prep. But I observed so much student interest and enthusiasm in the course of our project, and students seemed to appreciate a chance to be in charge and create something that was truly their own. These students looked forward to coming to school to work on their film project. They did not look forward to coming to test prep sessions. I think there is a time and a place for more traditional academic preparation at school, but isn't it also our jobs to motivate students and help them to appreciate the learning process just a little bit? I strongly agree with others who have said that students tend to develop a higher level of motivation when they feel in charge of their own learning and recognize connections between school and the real world, and I think PBL is a great way to facilitate that type of ownership. Whether it will be available to our students is not entirely in our hands, but I do think it is promising.

jillsensei said...

Indeed, I agree with my classmates that PBL is an extremely beneficial way to synthesize and assess, especially for English Language Learners. It is the journey indeed. And at the beginning, the whole process is challenging for teachers and students alike. This first year, I tried an exit project in which students needed to research an ancient civilization and write a 5-paragraph essay and create a PowerPoint presentation. Some of the projects I received were just short of disasters: the students plagiarized, they used ridiculous slide backgrounds and graphics, etc. But at the same time, the students learned a bit more about researching, a bit more about forming their own opinions about events, etc. I learned that I have to structure the PBL much better (complete with rubrics, rituals, routines, peer review checklists, etc). Hopefully PBL is here to stay (although the products will most likely be completely virtual), and our ELLs will continue to benefit from such a hands-on experience.

Teaching Perfection said...

The school I presently work at is a project based school. That is what sets them apart from the typical Junior High School. The idea is that all the content areas should interconnect and as has been posted by several other students, be useful in real life situations. I believe that this is definitely beneficial to the students but should not completely replace a traditional education where drills, tests and practice all help to lay down a good foundation for all education. In my opinion a good balance would be beginning the year learning and practicing skills in a traditional format, followed by project based learning that incorporates the employing of those skills and the intermingling of other content areas utilizing those skills. This way the student receives a more broad based education and can witness the applications of the skills applied through all the content areas. The Ell, especially benefits from the tactile approach of project based learning.

Julia Kravchik said...

I agree with all of my classmates in regards to the benefits of PBL. Hands on experiences for an ESL learner really helps them to learn not only academic language but also content. However, I think teaching perfection had a good point when she mentioned the importance of starting off the school year teaching in the traditional format before moving into PBL. Children need a solid foundation first on content before they can start working on their projects. PBL will allow them to put into practice the skills and knowledge that they learned through the traditional format and really acquire that knowledge.

Mr. Gaulke brings up three problems in implementing PBL that I was concerned with as well. As a first year teacher, classroom management is still not perfect in my classroom. I teach first grade, and I learned that if I did not have strict rituals and routines for my students, they would go a little wild. I think that until I master classroom management, PBL would not be successful in my classroom because the students would be off task. I tried having my students work on several small projects throughout the year, and that work wasn't very successful. My students were motivated in learning, but when it came to doing work and research they wanted to play more. Currently I am still trying to wrap my head around the curriculum as well as the management aspect of a classroom, so PBL is something that I would like to do and implement in my classroom in the future once I got a grasp on everything else. PBL has to be very well thought out and planned in order to be successful, and currently I am still lost on a lot of things to have this work.

In regards to whether or not PBL is a fad or something that will stick in the future, I think that sadly depends on test scores. If teachers use PBL in their classrooms and scores improve, I think more schools will move towards this learning style. However, if scores do not improve a new teaching style will be implemented. I think that no matter what name is given to group work it will still exist in some form or fashion in the future.

Reflective Student said...

I too agree with my classmates that PBL is useful to teachers and students alike.

After reviewing one of the websites that Professor Gura mentioned in class,, and viewing students' projects on that website, in particular, animated public service announcements focused on teaching lessons about natural disaster preparedness, it is clear to me that students involved in that project gained much more from doing the project than they could have from listening to a teacher teach about natural disasters and how to be prepared for such disasters. Students through such a project learned not only about the subject matter in their own city/state/country, but also learned about other students and the natural disasters those students could face in their respective countries as well as how those students would prepare for such disasters. Through this project, students were able to build collaborative relationships in the classroom, and become a part of a global audience. Students further learned animation skills, which include, drawing, knowledge of how to run and use animation software.

Just after looking at this one example of PBL, its amazing to me how many benefits students reaped from such a project that they could not have gained from traditional teaching. Traditional teaching divorces a task/skill from the real world. That's the problem. That's why our students are always bored and why they always ask us "why is this important?" or "why do I have to know this?" Most of the time, I say, "You have to know this because it will be on the regents." (Yikes, how regret giving such an answer.) PBL really is the answer.

I believe that the benefits that students gained from the above-mentioned project students are also gained through most other PBL. Through PBL, students are able to have authentic learning experiences that they are not likely to forget or gain through traditional teaching. Such experiences are likely to propell students to further pursue their interests. Isn't that the point of education anyway. Isn't it our job to create a spark in a child's mind, to show students a way to develop that spark , that interest in the real world. Students involved in such projects are now able to take the skills they learned and go on to bigger and better things. PBL is the way to go.

Now, having said all of that, I still struggle with finding ways to implement PBL into my classroom. I spent most of my first year teaching dealing with classroom management issues. Putting in place a long term project means that I will have to implement it successfully from start to finish. I'm not so sure I can do that at this juncture as a teacher. Understanding that, maybe the way to go is to develop a few smaller, short term projects that will allow me to get my feet wet with PBL and then be ready to implement it during my third year of teaching.

So, as I gain more experience in this profession, I hope to move my classroom away from the traditional teaching model to a pbl model. I expect though such a transition will be slow and steady.

Reflective Student said...

Here are some more websites with sample student projects and lesson plans:

Ms. Stephanie said...

this is a test

Anna Janssen said...

I'm a huge fan of PBL, and I sincerely hope that education starts to shift that way. One important point I didn't see above is that PBL offers an environment in which the standards can actually be covered - those test prep books cover materials, not standards.

Jamie made the point that PBL can be used for ELA and social studies classes, but I don't think it stops there. In my school overseas, we used PBL very effectively in several science units as well. The kids, the teachers, and even family members all had a lot of fun.

That brings me to another point which several people expressed concerns about: classroom management. The fear is that it's hard to control kids when they're all off doing their own thing, and I think people are very well justified to worry about this. However, the idea of PBL is that students wouldn't be doing a project that they weren't highly motivated to do. When the project is something they themselves are invested in, managing them is a lot simpler.

The last point I want to hit on is Michelle's. She said that our classrooms are not currently set up for PBL. She's dead on with this point. Not having the resources or the space, even, to pursue PBL is extremely frustrating for me, and I'm not yet sure how to effectively tackle it.

AS said...

Like many others, I like the idea of PBL and what it means to the students. Knowing that learning takes many different forms, PBL is one way to tap into some of the “non-traditional”, test-prep methods. For those who learn by doing, PBL provides a wonderful opportunity to dive in and experiment (using Power Point and other forms of technology, researching, etc…). I do think that education has a habit of following fads and only time will tell if PBL continues to be used by more teachers, or if it falls by the wayside because of the intense amount of instructor work and intrinsic student motivation needed. As someone who is the product of a more project-based education, I think it is an excellent method to help students develop into thinkers, problem-solvers, collaborators, and well-rounded people; but, not good multiple choice test takers. As a society we need to determine what we value.

Ms. Kennelly said...

The focus at my school is on PBL in the classroom, however, as part of the AIS team working in a pull-out situation I am involved in many in-school discussions about how we can use the PBL model when we work with groups that we might only see 2-3 times each week and in different configurations. As a result I have been working with the resource room teachers in developing curriculum this summer that is skill based and addresses students' needs while still trying to keep the activities meaningful. While we are not developing projects for next year, we are working to align the activities that they do in our pull-out sessions with the projects that they are doing in their content area classes. I think it is important to target skills so that they are able to participate in projects and I think that by working on skills separately they will be better equipped to collaborate with their classmates and learn from the projects that they are doing. That said, I think it is important to evaluate the needs of the individual student when planning instruction because different models may be appropriate for different learners.

Born to Be Bloggers said...

I agree with Ohkono, PBL is something the students can take ownership of and the teacher can hold students accountable for. As a middle school teacher, when I do long term projects with my students they love knowing what they will be working on each day. They have a lot of pride and care a lot about it since they have been working on it for so long. They set goals for themselves and once they achieve these goals they are so proud of themselves. I will continue to implement PBL.

Lindsay Tuttle said...

Being a special education teacher, I’m always looking for new ways to differentiate learning in my classroom. ESL and special education are closely linked in the strategies used to help students be successful. Each child is unique and not everyone fits into a standardized test. PBL gives students a chance to shine. With No Child Left Behind it has put a lot of hardships on students with disabilities and ESL students. We worked so hard on getting these student IEPs and create individualized materials to help them succeed to in turn mold them all together and make them take a standardized test that is way above their academic level. Human beings are so different in nature and to make everyone take them same test seems ridiculous. PBL challenges kids and PBL skills are going to prepare students for the future. They are more likely to be working on projects at their jobs then tests.

Carol Pincus said...

I love the theory of PBL – on so many levels. It’s authentic, it motivates students, and it’s a more unified, constructivist approach than teaching unconnected, individual lessons. But my major concern is this: It requires a lot more of the teacher in terms of planning, classroom management, and trouble-shooting. Given that such a high percentage of teachers are inexperienced (especially in ESL), are they really up to the task?

Mr. Joel said...

Obviously, PBL is proven to be worthwhile, and as many have already stated, it provides students with authentic learning opportunities that integrate real-world tasks such as collaborative thought and presentation to peers.

For myself, however, the biggest problem with PBL is making everyone accountable for the final product. As is the case with many things in life, those willing to take "the easy way out" will do so, while relying on those who are more naturally intrinsically motivated. While peer reviews may help, oftentimes students don't take them seriously and are wary of giving their peers poor marks, regardless of their ineptitude.

Two possible solutions to this are periodic individual assessments and assigned roles within the project. Individual assessments make each student responsible for the material that is covered, however, it doesn't necessarily help with the final product within PBL. Assigned roles seems to be the best solution to the problem of individual accountability because they create specific tasks that can be tracked and assessed for the final product. However, it may be necessary to make sure that students take turns at different tasks throughout the course of the year.

Ms. Jones said...

For students, it's all about feedback. The portfolios used in my school as project based assessments do take a lot of time to compile and keep updated. The students hate to do the grunt work but enjoy watching their work progress over time. They are often suprised to see the same mistakes repeated over a period of months. This is worth the time and trouble creating their files and dragging them accross the school. I don't see a replacement for this type of feedback.

Mike Chrzanowski said...

Well, to beat a dead horse and because I find it difficult to play devil's advocate on this issue, PBL is great! I'll now reiterate some of the comments made by my classmates which I most agreed with:

1. Project based learning provides a wonderful opportunity to present students with authentic, real world challenges.
2. As the educator, one of the crucial aspects to consider when creating such a project is how to balance structure with freedom of choice.
3. PBL necessitates a lot of planning on the part of the instructor and may need to go through several "trial runs" with various classes to work out unforseen problems.

I have yet to develop my own pbl experience for my ESL classes, but it is one of my big goals for next year. I'm lucky that my school has a flexible curriculum (especially in regard to ESL) and an administration who is willing to try new ideas. Now I just have to do it!