I already talked about this in one of my other blog posts, but in my U.S. History class in high school, we had a major group project called the “Decade Project.” I worked with 4 other people to create one giant presentation on everything about the 1970s. This is the main thing that comes to mind when I think about my own experience with project-based learning. We worked on this project for weeks, and definitely put a lot of time and thought into it. Although it was hard work, completing this project was one of the most meaningful experiences I have had in school, and I still remember so much information that I learned while doing that project.
Based on my personal experience and from what I’ve observed from reading about and watching videos, I think projects are so great for learning because they allow students to take control of their learning and to work at their own pace in a way that is much more meaningful. Rather than being taught a concept for one day and then never really talking about it again, students are continually applying and revisiting concepts while completing the project. This allows the information to truly be learned, rather than just memorized or regurgitated. Also, students are given the opportunity to experiment, try something out, and fail. But it’s okay if they fail! One of the best ways to learn is to make mistakes and then delve into what went wrong or what you could change.
As the two articles and the video discussed, project-based learning is also more meaningful because it provides opportunities for students to think and learn about real-life problems. Rather than just learning about something so that they can complete a worksheet or get a good grade on a test, students are learning so that they can tackle a real issue or directly apply it to their lives in some way. When students can see the impact of their learning and work, it generally makes them much more motivated to get stuff done. I wanted to include this quote from the “Design Thinking” article because I think it really sums up the point well:
“When children get to put their ideas to practice on a real problem, that’s when you make a real impact,” says Adam Royalty, a k12 Lab design lecturer. “That way, they gain both creative confidence and realize that they are change agents. These two points, especially the last one, are rarely expressed to children nowadays.”
A challenge for teachers is that creating these projects is certainly not easy. It takes a lot of time, organization, and planning. As project-based learning continues to grow in schools, hopefully more ideas and resources will be created that teachers can use to collaborate and work together in making project-based learning a more common experience for students everywhere. I hope that one day I can be as successful as Ms. Reeder in creating projects for my students in which they are engaged and excited about what they are doing and what they are learning.