In any learning process, one should distinguish between the busy work and the actual practical learning. While memorizing information and exploring the theory might seem like important activities, students learn only when they are involved and when the piece of knowledge is personally meaningful to them. The best learning mode would be to offer students working on projects that assume a tangible result, educational value and satisfaction from the process. The benefits of project-based learning are all about these things.
Project-based learning, or PBL, derives from John Dewey’s idea of “learning by doing,” which was explored in late nineteenth century. By mid-2000s, there were entire schools that adopted this method of learning. The research results showed that students manifested better academic success and higher grades in classrooms where PBL was practiced, as compared to the classrooms with the traditional learning style. According to education theorists, the current goal of education is not to make students meet the curriculum requirements, but to make them creative, passionate, capable of critical thinking and collaboration. All of this can be acquired only through personal experience. Below are some of the characteristics of project-based learning that explain how this method contributes to the multifaceted development of students in the process of learning.
PBL is centered on real-world projects.
Each project starts with an open question that is triggered by a particular situation. Students are familiarized with an existing problem, to which they need to find or propose a solution. This motivates them to learn and participate more, as they feel involved in something truly meaningful to them and society.
Personal involvement of each student matters a lot.
It is a very important component and one of the main principles of project-based learning. While answering standard questions is a characteristic of busy work, in PBL, a student should not only seek answers, but ask questions as well. Students will feel really involved when they are concerned about the problem and motivated to seek the solution.
While working on their projects, students decide its nature and draft its final look for themselves.
Student-driven learning process suggests that the participants choose the direction of projects themselves, after they do some preliminary research on the topic. It is important that collecting information is not reduced to copying it from the printed and online resources. Conducting surveys, interviewing the experts, and exploring particular cases will provide more in-depth information on the topic and get the learners involved even more.
Students develop the ability to cooperate with others and organize the activities.
Students choose their project partners themselves and distribute the roles among the team members. It is important that every participant makes an equal contribution to the project, and that everybody coordinates their work with the team.
Every piece of work is assessed in a complex way.
The principle of “right” and “wrong” cannot be applied here. Every component of the project and every little contribution counts. Teachers often practice presentation of projects to the greater audience which can consist of parents, peers, experts, local activists, or public thought leaders. This gives students a feeling of significance of the work that has been done.
Learning is a very complex process which comprises much more than acquisition of information and development of the subject-related skills. It also involves critical and system thinking, resource management, cooperation between subjects, and understanding of practical significance of the issue learned. Project-based learning is a form of the meaningful practical learning which shapes students as both individuals and functional members of the society.