Project-based Learning: What It Is and How It Benefits Students

Project-based learning has proven to be one of the most effective ways to engage students and provide a practical application for what they’re learning. Rachelle Dene Poth shares her insights into what project-based learning looks like, and how it helps students master key skills as they complete each project. Read on for some tips and helpful information!


Project-based learning (PBL) is something that I have been trying to integrate into my classes more over the past few years. I started thinking about alternate ways to enable students to:

  • produce authentic assessments,
  • create and study something that was interesting and engaging for them, and
  • provide some real-world learning experiences.

Project-based learning not only provides opportunities for students to collaborate or drive their own learning, but it also teaches them skills such as problem solving, and helps to develop additional skills integral to their future, such as critical thinking and time management. And maybe more importantly, it provides students with an opportunity to create authentic projects which are personal and meaningful to them. Students have the chance to pursue their own interests and as a result, opportunities for learning for students and teachers are tremendous.

SUPPORTING ALL STUDENTS

As a foreign language teacher, I need to assess my students in a variety of ways on a regular basis. As we all know, not every person learns the same way or has the same interests. In terms of assessment, some students can learn the material really well, but when a traditional test is given, their information and knowledge somehow disappears.

When this first happened in my classes, I began looking more at ways to assess my students–but to provide assessments which led to more authentic and personalized work. I wanted to provide an equal opportunity for students to achieve success in showing what they know (and can do) with the information that they have learned.

A great way to do this is through project-based learning. There are an increasing number of tools available for use in the classroom that enable students to have a choice and be creative, while also learning valuable technology skills for their future. These tools give students options for showing what it is they have learned and can do with the material, but in a way that is comfortable and relevant and meets their interests and needs. Most importantly, the students have choices and this makes a huge difference.

BENEFITS OF USING DIGITAL TOOLS FOR PBL

The options provide students with a variety of choices for showing their creativity, make learning more meaningful, and students become more engaged in what they are doing. Students can focus on an area of personal interest and decide how to show what they have learned and can do, in a way that is meaningful and engaging.

Many tools are available, both on the web and as apps, that serve to engage, motivate, and inspire students to learn more. The benefit of using web tools for PBL is twofold.

First, students can create something vibrant, engaging, and meaningful because they have chosen their area of interest, put their personal touches on it and, as a result, attach the content material with what they have created. They then retain the information better because they have created something for a real world experience.

It also teaches them the vital technology skills that they need moving forward, and gives them skills that can be used in other classes, and for their future. Learning to create multimedia presentations, to problem solve, think critically, quickly access resources, and communicate with others helps to empower students, and give them more control in their learning and growth process. We want to empower our students in their learning.

PAPER OR DIGITAL, PBL BENEFITS EVERYONE

There are many options available for implementing and producing evidence of project-based learning, whether it be in the traditional paper format style or through technology. Either way, giving students the opportunity to create a project to evidence their learning is beneficial. It not only leads to authentic products and meets the students where they are, but also gives them an opportunity to express themselves in unique ways, because it is more personalized and pertinent to their needs and interests. PBL leads to a more student-centered classroom and provides opportunities for students to learn from one another. It also enables the teacher to become more of a facilitator, and in addition to learning about the students, it reinforces the student-centered classroom, where students are empowered in their learning.


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