What is project-based learning?
Project-based learning (PBL) is a unique learning tool where students solve a real-world problem as part of a short-term project. Itâ€™s a strategy for students to drive their learning & apply classroom concepts in challenging, exciting ways.
Broadly, each project centers on a specific problem, question, or challenge that students research & explore. Students typically work on the project in teams which builds soft skills like communications & leadership. Some projects limit the physical resources available to students in their experimentation to inspire more creative solutions. Most culminate with a presentation of the research students have conducted and the solutions they have identified. Students may choose to continue their projects with more resources, and some projects even receive media attention!
The Benefits of Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning encourages students to be active learners who are curious about the world around them. It helps them develop important skills like organization, analytical thinking, and leadership. PBL helps students build meaningful models and apply their textbook knowledge in unique ways. The learning happens even as students struggle with the problem, building perseverance & grit. Here are some more benefits of this incredible learning mechanism.
Planning will help you divide the project into smaller manageable â€śchunksâ€ť and teaches you to prioritize. Itâ€™s the key to properly carrying out a new project. Breaking down materials you need for the project, and creating a blueprint of the project design will help streamline your experimentation process. It is also important to plan out how and where you will document your results so you can move towards a solution. Also, make sure everyone on your team knows their roles & tasks to avoid confusion and improve project workflow.
2) Team Management
In the working world, most projects will be completed in a team. As part of PBL, you will learn how to manage conflicts, collaborate for a common goal, and take leadership of your work. You will find that working in a team will result in more viewpoints & new ideas as you determine the best path forward on your project.
After assigning specific tasks to everyone on the team and developing a plan, you need to act on it! As you progress through the project, you may encounter some roadblocks or unanticipated struggles. Maybe you'll find that the project isn't turning out as expected and you need to make changes. Here, itâ€™s important not to give up on your initial idea. Keep pushing forward towards a solution despite the struggle. It will be worth it in the end.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
4) Time Management
Getting used to working with a deadline or with other limited resources will teach you to prioritize & maximize your productivity. This also helps in creating a strict work mindset-- being careful with your time & making the most of it.
5) Analytical Thinking
As you complete more projects, youâ€™ll develop the crucial skill of thinking analytically. You will learn to evaluate alternatives, research thoroughly, and make evidence-based decisions. Research skills like evaluating and corroborating sources are especially important in higher education & beyond. And PBL also teaches you to work with certain constraints, such as limited time, materials, or equipment. This is an important exercise that you can apply to your future career, where you may be limited in the amount of time, funds, or resources you can put into a project.
6) Motivation & The Snowball Effect
The feeling of finally completing your project-- whether that means submitting a report, delivering a presentation, or another format-- is like no other. By then, you will have gained the skills we have discussed and technical knowledge about your problem. You may find this builds up your motivation to take on more side projects, creating a snowball effect.
Completing projects will not only develop your confidence in a subject but will prepare you for real-world problems and how to tackle them. With every project you complete and every problem you solve there's something new you will learn. Make sure to celebrate your accomplishments before diving into the next one!
Ways You Can Implement PBL Into Your Learning
PBL is an essential tool that encourages experimentation & creativity. It also helps learners learn about their world and tackle the challenges of the day.
And you donâ€™t have to wait for your teachers to assign projects- create your own! Develop an open-ended research question, and try to experiment and find a solution. You can complete your self-developed project with a group of your friends, or on your own.
PBL has applications across every subject you can imagine. In science, students can research changes in their local climate & present their findings on an interactive website. In English, students can reflect on how political figures use speech & rhetoric to influence others, and apply what they have learned in their own creative writing pieces. In math, students can identify patterns in their environments to create equations, or apply concepts to finance or engineering.
Or, create a team and enter a project-based competition. Here are a couple of examples:
a. Hackathons & policy hackathons- Develop an application, program, or policy proposal to answer a question or solve a specific problem. Work intensively in a team of students in a design sprint.
b. Competitions like Project Paradigm- Base your project on a topic from a list of global problems like food insecurity, waste & conservation, home-fires, and biodiversity loss.
c. Science fairs- Design your own experiment in a specific field and focus on going deep rather than broad.
d. Clubs like FBLA & DECA- Take part in a fictitious companyâ€™s operations to solve business problems.
Want to go above and beyond? Try internships. Internships donâ€™t just help you understand how to apply your technical knowledge & skills. They are a special type of project that teaches you how to work in a professional environment.
Learning about business operations & collaboration, building a professional network, sales & marketing skills, negotiation techniques-- these skills and many more are best taught on the job. To get a head start in the working world while getting the benefits of PBL, engage in internships.