Project-based Learning: Is it learners’ main course yet?

With everything evolving in the education landscape, learn how we can adapt to newer pedagogical strategies like project-based learning (PBL) in our curriculum planning!

Tons of surveys and research are pointing to the gaps that exist in our education system and the lack of job-readiness and employability skills. As educators, how then do we make way for our learners to become problem-solvers, innovators, and critical-thinkers?

We take the PBL route! 

As a part of Highr’s Big 4 of Quality Teaching, this webinar focussed on Designing Instruction and how educators can embed projects in their curriculum, and not just at the end of it. 

Make PBL your main course, not just a dessert

Tracing back to when we were students, project work formed a part of holiday homework, CCE evaluation, or an end-of-the-chapter real-life application! But things are changing and we are adding newer ways to achieve learning outcomes effectively. 

Project-based learning is the answer to all our checklist bullets of a high-quality lesson plan—21st century skills, student choice and voice, and ownership of learning. 

Gold Standard: Essential elements of PBL

This gold standard PBL graphic shows the key focus areas of inculcating the pedagogy in our learning experiences. The first step is to keep the learning goals at the center of every project: understand the academic outcomes we want from the lesson, conceptual understanding of learners, and skills that we can develop using the project. 

Use a challenge to nudge learners towards deeper questions and more inquiry. One good way to begin, while making your next unit plan, is to revisit your curriculum and think how you can execute it through projects. If you can make it interdisciplinary across subjects, even better!  

HERE is a starting point to understand PBL more and implement it. 

Take Note: Project or Project-based Learning? Ask yourself if you are doing proactive research to make learners understand concepts through a project, or just tagging one at the end? Did your students have a say in the project, or in what they wanted to know more about? 

Where to start?

Take a unit that you have already taught, maybe in the previous academic year, or something you are familiar with, and remodel it into a project. Another way is to introduce the unit with a quick shoutout of big ideas of what students think, know and want to learn more. Educators can use tools like Padlet and Flipgrid to make students’ learning visible in remote scenarios. 

Put on your research hat and find out what’s happening in the world that interests your students; teach from the headlines! PBL is when students understand the WHY of a project, feel passionate about finding it out, speak to the experts in the field, and make proposal pitches to them. What a beautiful example of student ownership! 

These projects make an important part of formative assessments. Look beyond grades and tune in to how students are learning as the project unfolds. Educators must also encourage group projects and peer feedback mechanisms to make our learners ready for working in teams and taking constructive criticism well.

Harness the natural creativity of the little ones!

Have you ever observed a young one when they are just figuring things out on their own or the kind of curious questions they ask? 

A NASA study finds that 98% of 4-5 year olds scored at a ‘creative genius’ level. Five years later, only 30% of the same group scored that title. For adults, it was a mere 2%. As we grow older, the systemic spirit of our education curbs our divergent thinking and WHY questions. 

PBL is the best way to stop turning our learners all mechanical!  

Begin with co-constructing ‘What good looks like?’ with your teacher colleagues. Use the four Cs framework of Create, Collaborate, Communicate, Critical Thinking to design your project plan. Inculcate visible thinking strategies for engagement and CFUs, like KWL charts. These strategies also inform your project’s driving questions well.

Screenshots of primary students’ inquiry project on Solar System

Before moving ahead, here’s the trick! Don’t converge your learners’ thinking to make your lesson successful. Divide them in groups with common ideas, differentiate, and let your students have their own explorative journey! Inching closer to a real research-based project, curate a resource bank of relevant reads and encourage students to add and leverage it. To extend peer learning, students can also upload their videos or presentations on Flipgrid and receive feedback in comments.  

After every lesson, assess them through reflection exercises and exit tickets. Click HERE to explore more techniques of online assessments. Thinking about assessments, you may be wondering how PBL can replace our pen-and-paper tests? With huge amounts of syllabus, how to include PBL and cover it all? 

Mapping exercise: What projects should lead to?

Reminder: PBL is not just one project, it becomes your curriculum. When you are unit planning, map HOW projects will help build WHAT knowledge, skills and mindsets. And also remember, PBL makes learning stick! Because learners, from start to end, are asking their own questions and finding its answers themselves too!  

Expand your collaborative horizons with PenPals

PenPal schools offer educators ready-made lesson plans and questions to discuss. It also provides students the opportunity to interact with peers from different cultures and countries. Visualise a smooth interface where you, as an educator, ask a driving question and it sparks off a league of projects. Add the increased exposure of ideas of your students’ peers from different parts of the world. 

PBL+PenPal teaches learners a tiny but highly crucial skill at such an early stage—conversation and articulation of thoughts! Besides, don’t our learners feel intrinsically motivated to own their projects, get peer feedback and make new friends? 

Through this platform, educators can see what the students are doing with their Pen Pals, evaluate their work and give lesson grades. From writing and comprehension skills to digital citizenship, our learners are taking it all in through PBL! Just like SeeSaw, educators can invite parents to share students’ work and be proud of them. 

Make learning through projects the main course and enjoy the dessert of your effort on effective learning outcomes…

Watch the full webinar here:

Webinar on Projects or Project-based learning?

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