Project-based learning (PBL) involves students in a model that encourages them to engage in learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary, and integrated with real-world issues and practices. The focus is a shift from short, isolated lessons where students have 40 minutes of math instruction followed by 40 minutes of science followed by 40 minutes of reading. In PBL, students are using their skills and knowledge in a variety of subjects to solve problems and/or create products.
PBL motivates children to engage in their own learning by creating a product that allows them to practice and demonstrate academic skills and knowledge. PBL makes learning meaningful and practical by fostering connections to the world outside the classroom/home.
Learning is more authentic because students are given projects that are much more similar to those they will experience in a “real” work environment and in real-world situations they encounter outside the classroom or home. Even at a young age, children are able to practice and apply skills of scholars, researchers, and other professionals. For example, when a child is participating in a project, he may be asked to develop a project plan, create a draft for the plan, get feedback on his ideas, possibly conduct research in an area(s), and finally prepare to share a product with an audience. Depending on the age and independence of the child, the parent or teacher provides the appropriate support and structure to help the child accomplish some or all of these goals. Students learn not only the skills associated with the subject areas but also social skills, life skills, self-management skills, and independence.
As a child engages in a project, the teacher or parent takes opportunities to discuss the student’s ideas, provide feedback, encourage thought, and review the learning that is taking place.
With project-based curriculum, students feel connected to what they are doing. They experience a sense ownership and responsibility. At the end of most units, students are encouraged to share their projects with their family and friends. This gives the child a sense of accomplishment and pride that far outweighs the result of any worksheet or test.