Project-Based Learning Organically Engages Students

The prospect of project-based learning in the classroom has tremendous potential for engaging students. Substantial research suggests project-based learning organically captures students’ attention while teaching them the standardized information they are expected to know. As students are forced to learn more in order to complete a project they are interested in, they also learn the standardized information required by the state.

However, project-based learning is harder to implement than it may seem. The vast majority of teachers are trained in direct instruction but lack the skill set required to successfully put effective project-based learning into practice. According to KQED News, here are a few guiding principles teachers should keep in mind when spearheading project-based learning initiatives:

Explicitly articulate how projects connect to standards.

Although many instructors are excited to implement project-based learning, they need to keep in mind that maker-spaces are very often separate from classroom activities. It’s of the utmost significance to evaluate exactly how a project connects to standards so that students’ projects do not meander in teaching what is supposed to be taught.

In order to keep everything moving in the right direction, backwards planning is incredibly helpful. Identify your goal for the children and then choose the actions that are most likely to get them there.

Ask an open-ended question with measurable constraints.

A fantastic benefit to project-based learning is that students are encouraged to learn on their own and take the initiative. By driving their own education, they take a greater interest in what they are learning and are more likely to not just be engaged, but to enjoy being engaged.

However, driving students towards a single goal without giving them the steps on how to get there is difficult. Whatever question students are seeking to answer needs to perfectly balance open-ended components with enough constraints to keep them moving forward. If over the course of your project, students are requesting the information you wanted to teach in the first place, then it is well-designed. They are driving their own education because they are seeking their own answer.

Assess both process and product.

The process a student uses is just as important as the product the student produces. The rubric should have process-focused goals in addition to more traditional objectives. This way, students understand that how they reach a solution is just as significant as the solution itself.

If students actively look for an answer to the driving question, research as they need to, and illustrate what they know, then the project is a success no matter what the product is. When teachers receive feedback on the process itself, they can refine their students’ learning abilities and teach them to retain information more effectively.

Project-based learning involves those who matter most in their education: students. By giving kids a say in what they learn and how they learn it, teachers are fostering invaluable life skills that go far beyond the confines of the classroom.