Why use project based learning?

There’s been some great discussion of the potential benefits of PBL on our unit forum this week.

PBL can support constructivist learning through rich, authentic, purposeful investigation. It encourages creativity, curiosity and innovation, while at the same time developing students’ skills in higher order thinking and building deeper knowledge. Students are required to take responsibility for their own learning and to develop greater self-discipline. In addition, PBL provides important opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and support. Students are able to learn from each other and are valued for their own unique skills and strengths. Ideally, PBL creates more motivating and engaging learning opportunities – and therefore more motivated and engaged students – and can result in an open, supportive and collaborative classroom environment.

Of course lots of legwork is required to pull all these benefits off! In order to facilitate successful PBL experiences, teachers must:

  • Ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the PBL model, potentially undertaking professional development to support this.
  • Ensure that students have a thorough understanding of PBL and of its supporting strategies and roles.
  • Provide students with the necessary tools, from learning strategies to physical, technological or information resources to access to real-world expertise.
  • Differentiate learning to meet students’ differing needs and capabilities, and support each student as required.
  • Scaffold students so that they create links to prior learning and build further knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • Embed authentic assessment tasks that provide students with multiple, varied opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • Create meaningful connections to curriculum and continue to support other priorities such as state- or school-based standardised assessment and testing.
  • Actively build a collaborative classroom environment where open and authentic learning is valued.

There is a great deal to it – particularly if a teacher is looking to successfully implement PBL over only one term – but the potential benefits are enormous. It will be interesting to see how our unit group goes with this (slightly daunting!) task over the next nine weeks.

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