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Project Based Learning is a student-centered teaching method that allows students to investigate real-world problems. This lesson will explain the components and give ideas for project-based learning.

Introduction to Project Based Learning

I don’t remember much from my elementary school years. The activities and classroom routines seem to run together. However, I do remember one language arts project I did in eighth grade. Our teacher came to us with a task.

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He said that he was struggling to excite the seventh grade classes about grammar and that he needed our help.From there, our class sprung into action. We observed the seventh grade grammar classes, interviewed students, and researched our own teaching ideas. By the end of two weeks, we had created many activities to help the seventh graders learn. Although we didn’t know it yet, we had learned a lot in the process as well.My eighth grade language arts teacher was using a teaching strategy called project-based learning. In this method, a teacher poses a problem to students and then coaches them through the process of a project to solve the problem.

Students learn the necessary knowledge and skills they need by taking ownership and responsibility for their learning.Now that you know the meaning of project-based learning, let’s learn about some of the important components that support this teaching strategy.

Important Components

Teachers using the project-based learning strategy need to do more than pose a project; they need to make sure the project has the potential to meet the following eight components.

  1. Significant content:The problem must involve students working with essential content. This content is usually based off of designated state standards.
  2. 21st century skills:The projects students participate in need to allow them to problem-solve and engage in critical thinking. Projects should push students to be creative and require them to collaborate in order to be successful.

  3. In-depth inquiry:A good project will last more than a day or two. Teachers need to give students the time to really investigate, ask the important questions, and construct their own answers.
  4. Driving question:A quality project will be framed around a question that both engages students and helps focus their inquiry.
  5. Need to know:A project should entice students to want to complete research to find the answer. Quality projects motivate students to learn and investigate.
  6. Voice and choice:In order to give students ownership over the project, teachers need to allow students to make decisions about how to investigate the problem and how to work together.

    (Of course, the teacher can help facilitate this).

  7. Reflection and revision:Before students complete their work, there should be time for students to receive feedback about their progress.
  8. Public audience:Students should be given the opportunity to deliver their final project to an authentic audience that will either use or benefit from the work.

Examples

Now that you know the required components for project-based learning, let’s take a look at some potential project ideas.Many great projects can be found in your school. Here are some prompting questions to get you thinking about school-based projects.

  • Does your school need a recycling program?
  • Does your school have a litter problem?
  • Do you have low attendance at extra-curricular activities?
  • Has the school garden been unsuccessful?
  • Does the school need a better way to communicate school news to parents and the community?
  • Does the school need new fundraising ideas?

Connecting with the community is another great way to source projects. Here are some helpful questions to guide you.

  • Does the local hospital or nursing home need a better volunteer program?
  • Does the library have difficulty with attendance at family nights?
  • Does a local company need ideas to engage younger target audience?
  • Can your students help the town create a tour of important landmarks and sites?
  • Can your students interview people in the community to write biographies?

These questions are just the start. The sky is the limit when you are planning for project-based learning!

Lesson Summary

Project-based learning is a teaching strategy that allows students to engage with projects in order to solve real-world problems.

Teachers should use the eight components of project-based learning to create tasks for students in the school or community. Those eight essential components are:

  1. Significant content
  2. 21st century skills
  3. In-depth inquiry
  4. Driving question
  5. Need to know
  6. Voice and choice
  7. Reflection and revision
  8. Public audience

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