Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
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VIDEO: Project-Based Learning: An Overview

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.

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Chris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

By using Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design format I have created both background and project-based learning assignments that the students have learned from and were able to answer questions the were posed by traditional teaching styles. It is like the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" it also takes creative and various formats to educate children of today. If all we do is teach in one manner then we are doing a disservice to the students wen are teaching.

It doesn't matter whether it is project-based or traditional learning there will be students that will try to get by without lifting a finger. The teacher's know who those students are and in most cases will assess them as to their contributions as well as how the whole project turns out. Teachers are not blind, most of them are willling to try new techniques with their students. Where you teach and how the students come prepared for school depends a lot on how a teacher approaches teaching. There are many variables that are in the education system today that were not there when I was a student or even when I started teaching.

Teachers must continue taking classes to keep up their certifications and that means that the best of them are always in school and learning. They may not implement all the new things they learn because students need to have the foundations to participate in many of the new approaches to teaching. Students have varied interests and this is where the intelligences come into play. If a student is a visual learner and all youn do is lecture then you have lost this child, but if you bring in visuals and activities then you have also helped this child to learn.

Until you have been a teacher you have no idea how many things that a teacher has to juggle just to present a lesson. It is not open a book and teach. There are the requirements of NCLB, States, Districts, and let us not forget the parents. If you are teaching in a state other than Florida, Texas, and California, you also must adapt what the textbook says because these are the states that drive what is written in the textbooks. Oh yes, and lets not forget parent conferences, meetings, Special Needs students, and many more things too numerous to mention.

Don't blame you ignorance on the teacher because you also have a stake in your learning. Were you one of those carried along by others?

John Q. Public's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Mike, my name is not Renee. I was responding to a person named Renee.

You see that students are not doing well on the three Rs, and academic subjects, and what is your brilliant analysis? The subjects are to blame! They're boring! Kids don't like that stuff! I hope you aren't a teacher or administrator. Anyone who cannot understand how traditional academic subjects are not "essential skills and employability skills" has no business teaching kids.

"We want Relevance, man!" you say. You have "seen the light." Look, Boomer, I'm a Gen-Xer, and your time has past, and so is that of the tired old philosophy you represent, too--and none too soon, either. In the future, ordinary public schools that will undergo a radical transformation under severe pressure from charter schools, home schoolers, an increasingly uncompetitive American populace, not to mention the free availability of superior free learning materials online. We'll see increasingly strident demands that schools actually teach kids stuff, instead of doing make-work "projects" that do not succeed at teaching much of anything. The teacher unions will have to be broken up and exposed for the completely undemocratic monopoly they are, and education schools will be shown to be the intellectual frauds so many of them are.

Well, a guy can dream, anyway.

high school online's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Maya, i have something for you. BIE has published a Project Based Learning Handbook that offers a comprehensive overview of PBL and a detailed planning model for teachers. The introduction to the handbook contains information on the history and philosophy of PBL.

Jimmie Swofford's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am interested in music education at all levels. Is anyone out there useing the project method in this area of education? I would like to have your ideas.

Laurie, Staff's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Staff comment:

Take a look at this article about The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, which brings music education to schools and lets teens produce their own tunes and this one about using hip-hop as a teaching tool.

Cyndee Perkins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that some students may take advantage of project-based learning by not contributing their "fair share" toward the team effort. As an instructor who has used project-based learning extensively, and as an educator now responsible for the devlopment of curriculum, I can attest that the responsibility for successful implementation of project-based learning lies directly with the supervision of the classroom teacher. I have never felt that core content should be imparted through project-based learning; core content, however, is reinforced by students when creating projects. And using technology to create the projects (wikis, blogs, spreadsheets, etc.) reaps a double benefit for the students: retention of core content AND understaning that technology is a communication tool.

Cyndee Perkins
Director of Curriculum and Program Development

Mary Beaver's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would love to have ideas for incorporating health issues into problem solving lessons. An example: lessons in which the groups would have to diagnosis and solve problems in a specific body system. In the area of substance abuse, students would have to evaluate how and why the specific drug caused negative problems to the body. The idea of students working together and applying their individual skills into presentations or projects as a means of focusing the evaluation into a life like strategy.
I look forward to any sites or help.

Thank you

Angela's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I like your incredibly balanced approach. Why is it that in education we swing to extremes. No, project learning should not be the main method by which we instruct. Students do need to be taught in more traditional methods to gain a good knowledge base of a subject. But, what is wrong with going a step farther and allowing them to explore a subject through every means available to them and in that process allowing them the social experience of working well with others, delegating and being responsible to other indiviuals to complete a project every now and then. These are skills they will need in the real world as well.
Project learning should be just another 'tool' in an educator's toolbelt.

Kennedy_Esendi's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear friends ,
project learning is like problem learning ,ihave been using this method for the last one month and its impact is so great and positive to the students, my requestis that please feed me with more information about it since knowledge is power.

McHoney's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Project based learning is a great idea. It really helps the students to use the information that they have learned and apply it closely to how they would in a real life situation. Yes, as mentions, some students will take advatage of it, but with proper monitoring and group assessments, it all will work well. Of course we cannot use project based learning all the time. Some students may need the individual projects. They may learn better that way.

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