Project-Based Learning: Think Twice Before Deciding It’s “Too Hard” to Implement

Project-Based Learning: Think Twice Before Deciding It’s “Too Hard” to Implement

Project-Based Learning: Think Twice Before Deciding It’s

We all can probably remember being in school and having to do projects. Each student in the class would be assigned the same thing—like create a poster about hurricanes or a diorama of whales. There were due dates to meet, rules to follow, and grades to be earned. And yes, in many cases, parents got involved by buying supplies or even finishing the project the night before it was due.

Enter project-based learning. Teachers all over the country, in every grade and subject area, are replacing the traditional project with projects that are student-centered and make learning real and relevant. Which leads project-based learning newbies wonder: How do they do it, given the fact that it’s a totally new way for students to learn and teachers to teach? Read on for the answer.

5 Tips for Project-Based Learning Success

Project-based learning is an exciting classroom-based approach to teaching in which students investigate real-world problems and gain deep knowledge. Research has shown that project-based learning students remember content longer, view themselves as better problem solvers, and perform better on tasks that require understanding and application of knowledge.

The move to this trending practice does not happen overnight. It takes time and trial-and-error. However, by introducing small projects, one at a time, teachers can gradually discover what works and what doesn’t in their classrooms.

To accelerate the process, here are five tips that make successful implementation of project-based learning easier. Let’s take a look.

  1. Start with a compelling question.
    A good question gives students a purpose and focuses their efforts. The question should be thought-provoking, attention-getting, and intriguing. When is it okay to turn immigrants away? Is our air really safe to breath? Or the question can challenge students to solve a problem: How can we get more people to vote?
  2. Give students a reason to learn.
    No busy work! Students don’t get excited about learning something simply because they will be asked it on a test. They will get excited about meaningful inquiry into a relevant topic that captures their fancy and triggers their curiosity.
  3. Give students a voice and choice.
    The importance of this cannot be overlooked. We’ve all seen students, when given the right challenge, take off running with an idea. The more choices and input they have, the more motivated they will be. So, allow them to select a topic, choose how to design and present the product, or decide which resources to use. It’s okay to guide them with a list of possible choices to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Provide opportunities to build key 21st century skills.
    Collaboration, communication, critical thinking—project-based learning is the perfect vehicle for exposing students to these skills. It’s not just a new way to learn. It’s a new way to think, work together, and to form the basis of how they will function in the real work world.
  5. Offer feedback and allow students to critique each other’s work.
    Through feedback and revision, students can learn an important life lesson—success doesn’t come easy. It often involves failure and returning to the drawing board. And this requires grit and persistence—two qualities that our children will need to tackle and overcome the challenges ahead.

Is changing to a project-based learning environment hard work? No doubt it is. But it’s doable. Try looking at project-based learning as a journey with many bumps in the road. But teachers who hang in there and continue to evaluate and revise their efforts will reap the benefits. And so will their students.

Learn the key elements of project-based learning and how it can transform your classroom. SDE offers a webinar that will bring you up-to-speed. Check out An Introduction to Project-Based Learning (Gr. K–5) by author and former classroom teacher Dedra Stafford.