Project based learning can be a challenge because it moves the control from the teacher to the student. When we began our teaching journey, controlling every aspect of student work from beginning to end seemed like the right thing to do. As we’ve evolved as teachers, we learned that loosening the reigns has many benefits. Check out some of the best reasons we use project based learning in our classroom.
Multiple means of engagement.
When you allow students to make decisions about how they learn, the engagement goes through the roof. It’s hard to know what things to allow students to choose, but we always start with the basics. If the assessment is based on content, the method in which that content is delivered or the learning is expressed really takes a back seat. If we want to know what our students know about the vikings, they can show this to us by writing a paragraph, recording a video, drawing a cartoon or performing a play. When students choose, they win (and if the teacher is only assessing the content-not the method of delivery-then assessment is the same whether it’s a play or a poster).
Students do the work, not the teacher.
Instead of teachers having to be responsible for finding, researching and organizing all the content, students become responsible for this. Of course, students need to be taught how to do this over the course of a school year, so the first project of the year shouldn’t be an all-inclusive unit. Start small. Choose one concept and have students learn about it and teach each other. Between videos on YouTube, textbooks and all the resources available on the web, it’s easy for students to locate information. Your role as the teacher becomes one of helping students navigate and become responsible researchers and digital citizens.
The learning happens during the project.
Often projects are done at the end of the unit. What if the project WAS the unit? As long as the teacher is clear about the objectives for the knowledge and skills that need to be acquired, there is no need to fill students up with worksheets and reading pages only to give them a big project at the end.
Making real connections.
Students do not connect with worksheets. They like to feel the work they do is genuine and that they are learning new skills in an interesting way. Our students are 21st century learners and we need to give them opportunities to collaborate, learn, speak, present and challenge themselves.
Differentiation happens naturally.
When students make choices about what they are learning, they tend to choose activities that naturally show off their strengths or overcome their learning challenges. This puts the onus on students to make these decisions, thus making less work for the teacher to try to accommodate all the different learning needs.
What types of projects do we use? We created several activities that allow students to learn and have fun. We enjoy working with teachers to create their own projects, so if you’re looking for something specific, be sure to contact us and we’ll work with you to help you start using project based learning in your classroom. Science and social studies are subjects that lends themselves naturally to project based learning. These projects come with many choices to allow students to research and present their learning. Projects are balanced throughout the school year so there is only one project going on at a time.