Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience

Project-based learning helps students apply what they learn to real-life experiences and provides an all-around enriching education.

Project-based learning helps students apply what they learn to real-life experiences and provides an all-around enriching education.

VIDEO: Project-Based-Learning Overview

Running Time: 9 min.

Project learning, also known as project-based learning, is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups.

Because project-based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both team-based and independent work.

In the process of completing their projects, students also hone their organizational and research skills, develop better communication with their peers and adults, and often work within their community while seeing the positive effect of their work.

Because students are evaluated on the basis of their projects, rather than on the comparatively narrow rubrics defined by exams, essays, and written reports, assessment of project-based work is often more meaningful to them. They quickly see how academic work can connect to real-life issues -- and may even be inspired to pursue a career or engage in activism that relates to the project they developed.

Students also thrive on the greater flexibility of project learning. In addition to participating in traditional assessment, they might be evaluated on presentations to a community audience they have assiduously prepared for, informative tours of a local historical site based on their recently acquired expertise, or screening of a scripted film they have painstakingly produced.

Project learning is also an effective way to integrate technology into the curriculum. A typical project can easily accommodate computers and the Internet, as well as interactive whiteboards, global-positioning-system (GPS) devices, digital still cameras, video cameras, and associated editing equipment.

Adopting a project-learning approach in your classroom or school can invigorate your learning environment, energizing the curriculum with a real-world relevance and sparking students' desire to explore, investigate, and understand their world. Return to our Project Learning page to learn more.

This article originally published on 2/28/2008

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Comments (97)

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Jenn (not verified)

The article, "Laptops on

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The article, "Laptops on Expedition: Embracing Expeditionary Learning" talks about how test scores have risen in one school since this approach was adopted. In fact, it goes on to say that the students outscored the state average in almost all subjects. It is an interesting article. The students final project produced an amazing CD-ROM about endangered species in Maine.

http://www.edutopia.org/king-middle-school-expeditionary-learning is the link.

Milton Chen, GLEF (not verified)

Research on PBL

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Staff comment:

Last year, we funded a literature review, by Linda Darling-Hammond and Brigid Barron of Stanford and others, of project learning, cooperative learning, and other innovative practices. Read their article and download a PDF of the article on our Web site, and read the book they wrote about the review, Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding.

Dr. Loran W. Walker (not verified)

Metrics - Project-Based Learning

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Has there been discussion on assessment of project-based learning? Has this approach been embraced or questioned by Administration because of metrics that may or may not be used to assess student learning progress? In other words, is it hard to justify the use of this technique in a traditional K-12 school system?

Kathleen Menchey (not verified)

Use of project based learning in 3rd and 4th grade curriculum

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This is Kathleen Menchey and I am a fourth grade teacher, at Collins Elementary in EL Paso, Texas. I am curious and interested in your use of project based learners in the fourth grade. Being that your instructor had the famous John Dewey of education, as his instructor, your insight must be outstanding. I was wondering if you could please share how the project based learning situations had been selected for the 4th grade students. Could you please explain how much daily class time you were able to devote to the project based learning situations? Do you have a list of project based situations and the curriculum these problem based situations link up with? If you could share this information I would like to implement these problem based situations into the class room.
Thank you,
Kathleen Menchey

jennifer (not verified)

project-learning

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We were encouraged to conduct project-approach practices with our pre-K students this past year. I inerpreted, as well as my colleagues, as student-selected, hands-on investigative work. I assume this is the same type of instruction you are describing. Do you have any ideas on how to apply this to hte Pre-K level? Thanks.

G Marshall (not verified)

If you review the extensive

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If you review the extensive literature and talk to people who use this approach to teaching you will find that the entire process does not just involve students engaged in their own problem-solving. Teachers are still very active in the process, they still interject class discussions, hold mini-lecutres, etc. to help students refine their thinking and understanding. Teachers become guides and learners along with the students, rather than the "information authority." Teachers must be skilled in the art of promoting understanding through questioning, rather than just "telling information." Before adotping this, or any approach for that matter, you as the teacher must be very organized, have clear student objectives, and must have planned how you will evaluate student performance related to those objectives.

Patricia Grove (not verified)

I used project based learning

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I used project based learning with3rd and 4th graders in the 50's after working with Dr. Harry Hahn of the Oakland County (MI) Reading Clinic. (He was a student of John Dewey.) There was always interest because we were doing some thing new and different with the emphasis on achieving an outcome. They had regular courses also -- their project work was easily included in art, English, science and math when appropriate. The students tested 2 yrs and more above grade level when standardized tests were given. They were not only having their regular courses and using what they were learning, but also learning new vocabulary, information and skills. Working together also helped self-conscious
children and those who had missed learning something the first time.

Mike Shay (not verified)

PBL

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PBL looks great on video but it can't totally take the place of traditional high school courses in mathematics and science (for example).

While it is beneficial for some students, others will be unwilling or unable to complete the projects presented. Consider the West Hawaii Explorations Academy's 30% drop rate.

I think PBL is an excellent option for the senior year of students who have met the core curriculum goals of their school district or maybe as a single semester project.

jane James (not verified)

This is a productive

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This is a productive alternative for students in the upper grades. In relation to the elementary level, Project-based Learning could be given on a project basis in conjuction with the traditional reformed classrom. Children learn in all different ways. On the other hand, when it come to the high School students, PBL should be readily utilized. To get children to strategorize, work together, gather imformation, finds several ways to solve a problem, come to credible comclusions; to get them to ask relevant question and analyze different point of views to get their desired outcome is motivative and smart. To create projects that are work related: solotions for health issues, environmental issues, political issues, educational issues, will prepare students for the workforce. In today's society we need people that can THINK!

Kevin Thompson (not verified)

Like some others who have

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Like some others who have posted comments already, I also feel that PBL can provide some great qualities to the classroom. However, I do not feel it should completely replace everything we do on a daily basis. Students must be able to learn from multiple styles if they are to succeed in higher education.

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