Commonalities in Three Articles Involving Project Based Learning

Edutopia.org published the three articles on Project Based Learning (PBL) assigned for this week.  The first article and its accompanying video, More Fun Than a Barrel of …Worms?! (Curtis, 2001) described a school that encourages PBL projects and features three.  I will be using my acronym, BOW to represent this one.  A second video, Geometry Students Angle into Architecture through Project Learning (Armstrong, 2002), considers a classroom in the future (my acronym for this one is APL).  The third article with video, March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration (Curtis, 2002), is a collaborative project between students from a school in Maryland  and from one in Mexico (my acronym for this one is MOM)

There are quite a few commonalities amongst the three.  Regarding PBL, the following comments are from  my observations via the articles documenting the projects and the attached video links.   For example, the assignments were completed over an extended period of time (weeks, as in the case of APL and some of the projects in BOW, to months of observation in MOM).  In addition, these projects extended outside of the learning environment.  Field trips were incorporated, contact with students from other classes was observed, and students connected with individuals from the community.  Technology was also an important component for many of the projects, as was obvious in viewing the videos.  Another aspect that was apparent from reading the articles and watching the videos was that the all of the students seemed engaged in the process.   As an educator, to me, this means that the students had found a connection with something larger than themselves involving  a subject in which they were truly, wanting to investigate.  In addition, it was apparent that these projects integrated multiple subject areas (such as mathematics, language arts, science, and fine and performing arts);  this process seemed as if it would be able to provide the students with more mental connections with knowledge already imparted.

 

IIn addition, the group experience seemed paramount for each activity described.  Members of the group had to decide on the focus of their project, delegate responsibility, brainstorm as a whole, and present their findings to an audience.  Collaborative efforts included live meetings with group peers, as well as long-distance interaction.  This seemed especially true of MOM, where the Maryland students exchanged data with students from Mexico (Curtis, 202).

From my observations, the role of the educator in each situation was to introduce the project to the students and then function as a facilitator, which allowed the students to steer the course of their own work.  The educator also assessed the work at its conclusion.  The students’ role in each case was observed to raise an important query, work as a team to determine the direction of  approach in solving their problem, be the creative source in implementing their path of elucidation, and finally, determining a presentation format for their work which would effectively convey this information to their target audience.

In these cases, PBL seemed to be an effective means of imparting knowledge necessary to meet educational standards.  At Newsome Park (the school featured in BOW), between 1997 and 2000, the percentage of fifth graders passing the Virginia Standards of Learning test increased from 35 percent to 65 percent in math, from 52 percent to 79 percent in science, and from 53 percent to 65 percent in English (Curtis, 2001).  In addition, students seem to appreciate the clarity of the assessment process.   For APL, students are more readily able to separate their personal worth from the quality of their work, and they’re able to separate the particular aspects of their work that need improvement from those that don’t.  It demystifies grades, and most importantly, helps students to see that the whole object of schoolwork is attainment and refinement of problem-solving (Armstrong, 2002).

In summation, in order for educators to do right by their students, a major aspect I believe we  should be keeping in mind is preparing them for what the 21st century holds for them.   To recognize patterns, crossing boundaries to uncover hidden connections and making bold leaps of imagination is the aptitude on which the world will be placing a premium (Pink, 2006, p. 130-131).  It seems that these articles strongly support PBL as a valuable and viable tool to accomplish this.

PBL 1st blog

Photo by Misty Sirianni

 References

Armstrong, S. (2002, February 11). Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning. Retrieved January 21, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/geometry-real-world-students-architects

Curtis, D. (2001, October 5). More Fun Than a Barrel of . . . Worms?! Retrieved January 21, 2015, from http://edutopia.org/more-fun-barrel-worms

Curtis, D. (2002, June 6). March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration. Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://edutopia.org/march-monarchs

Pink, D. H. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (Paperback ed.). USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, China: Penguin Group.

 

2 thoughts on “Commonalities in Three Articles Involving Project Based Learning

  1. Bill Dolton

    Excellent review! I especially liked your summation about PBL preparing students “to recognize patters, crossing boundaries to uncover hidden connections and making bold leaps of imagination.” That truly is the goal of PBL.

    Reply

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