What is project-based learning? PBL is a new learning approach which places greater emphasis on targeting the learning of complex experiences, geared to a specific goal or objective, in place of the traditional academic approach strongly focusing on rote memorization of multiple information items alienated from their practical, real-world uses. The objective is the one of equipping young generations with the mental tools needed to face the complex, fast-changing nature of the information-based economy they are preparing themselves for.
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The big problem is that the present educational paradigm is simply inadequate when it comes to providing our young kids with the challenges, methods, exercises and approaches that can help them use their intellect in critical ways, that can help them analyze and evaluate information, and that trains them to become excellent listeners and communicators.
Did school ever teach you how you can verify, question or even challenge any source of information? Or how you should best organize your work when working in a collaborative team? Or how to present information in effective ways so that complex ideas can be easily communicated to others? I bet the answers to all these is a systematic «no«.
In today’s traditional classrooms, students typically work on simple assignments that emphasize short-term content memorization; they work alone, write for the teacher alone, and rarely make presentations. They are trained day-in and day-out to serve this one-to-one relationship with their teacher(s) which is hardly representative of the demands and challenges that they will have to face in real-life.
Instead, by using this so-called «project-based learning approach«, students are guided to work on long-term challenges that involve real-life problems. This helps students see the complexity and interdisciplinary aspects of any job or activity in a more realistic fashion, helping them prepare more effectively for the real challenges ahead.
In this process, students are also motivated to learn how to use new technologies to support such assignments. Technology and the internet can in fact greatly help them do better research, analysis, and evaluation of alternative solutions, communicate and present more effectively their ideas and projects to others and learn how to collaborate and work with a distributed team.
In project-based learning students are finally given the opportunity to go through an educational approach which allows them to transcend the limiting nature of the one-to-one teacher-student relationships in favor of mastering how to collaborate and arrive at results efficiently while working with others. And at the same time the classical teacher role itself needs, under this perspective, to transform itself into the one of a facilitator, a guide.
In this fascinating report, Bob Pearlman, illustrates effectively the key traits and characteristics that make project-based learning so different from any traditional school learning curriculum.
Students Thrive On Cooperation and Problem Solving
by Bob Pearlman
Why Learning and Schooling Must Be Totally Transformed
Let’s assume the No Child Left Behind Act works fine and that by 2014 every student meets the targeted standards and passes his or her state’s exit exam.
Will those students be successful as citizens and workers in the twenty-first century? Not a chance.
Let’s further assume that each state’s governor gets the one-on-one computer bug and equips all of each state’s students with top-flight portable PCs. Will these students now be successful as citizens and workers in the twenty-first century?
Again, not a chance.
No matter how sophisticated the tools we put in classrooms, the curriculum designed to educate students to meet the new standards is sorely inadequate to help them after they leave school.
In short, learning – and schooling – must be totally transformed.
«Today’s graduates need to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, and effective communicators who are proficient in both core subjects and new, twenty-first-century content and skills,» according to Results that Matter: 21st Century Skills and High School Reform, a report issued in March by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
- Learning and thinking skills,
- information and communications-technology literacy skills, and
- life skills.
Students of today enter an increasingly globalized world in which technology plays a vital role. They must be good communicators, as well as great collaborators.
The new work environment requires responsibility and self-management, as well as interpersonal and project-management skills that demand teamwork and leadership.