As educators strive to better prepare their students for adulthood, project-based learning is rapidly gaining popularity. Its collaborative approach and emphasis on critical thinking make it an effective method for empowering students in their learning journey. A valuable tool like Beanstack can further enhance project-based learning by seamlessly integrating reading into the mix.
What Is Project-Based Learning?
Project-based learning provides students with the opportunity to engage in active learning by exploring real-world projects. These projects are not limited to the confines of the classroom and often involve collaboration among students. By solving real-world problems, students can effectively demonstrate their skills and enhance their learning experience.
Four Key Processes of Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning has four distinct key processes that are important for educators to know, including:
1. Identifying a Problem
During the project launch, the students become active participants in the project. Often, there will be some sort of entry event or hook that makes students excited about the project. Once students are on board with the project, the teacher will explain the guidelines and set an overall project timeline.
After launching the project, the teacher will introduce the Driving Question or identify a problem to solve. The Driving Question is open-ended and ignites students’ interest, ultimately driving the entire project.
Here is an example of a template to follow when developing the Driving Question:
- How can we __________ so that _________?
In the blanks, the instructor proposes an action and a purpose. Having a question at the outset is crucial to developing critical thinking.
2. Generating Ideas to Reach a Solution
After the educator asks the initial question, students will enter the inquiry stage and propose their ideas to the group. The inquiry stage is also where any research necessary for the project happens. Give students time and resources to develop their best answer to the proposed Driving Question. This period of brainstorming should focus on collaborative discussion of all possible solutions to the problem. Establishing guidelines for these brainstorming sessions will make them a more successful exercise, encouraging cooperation and strengthening interpersonal communication skills.
3. Creating a Prototype of the Solution
Now, teachers are ready to implement the students’ ideas into practical actions that will solve the Driving Question. Through collaborative learning and direct instruction, students will work to create a solution for a real-world problem. In the prototype development phase, students should make their own choices to find a solution, and the teacher should allow those choices to come to their natural conclusion.
It is also in the development stage where students begin to analyze their thinking and put their ideas to the test. Students drive this process, while at the same time, the teacher is offering feedback and probing for deeper contextual understanding and helping students make broader real-world connections.
4. Testing the Prototype
Once the development phase is complete, the final step is the presentation of the prototype. The project should result in an authentic piece of work, including data when applicable, that the students can present to an audience or test their prototype in a real-world setting. Ideally, the audience should be a person or a group of people outside of the classroom who have a vested interest in the presented topic. Following the presentation, encourage audience feedback and self-reflection. The students will be able to engage in critical thinking, an essential component of project-based learning.
Six Elements of Project-Based Learning
Six distinct elements define a project-based learning program or instructional approach. These include:
- Intellectual challenge and accomplishment – The Driving Question should pose a thoughtful question to the students that stimulate their intellect, and the resulting solution should bring a sense of accomplishment.
- Authenticity – The project work should involve real-world context or have a personal impact on the students or the school as a meaningful project. In other words, it should address an authentic problem.
- Public product – Students must have a way to show their work to the public in a presentation beyond the classroom.
- Collaboration – These problems and projects provide a way for students to collaborate, and collaboration is a key to helping build problem-solving and communication skills.
- Project management – Planning, implementing, and tracking the project teaches critical thinking and should be part of this learning model and teaching method.
Reflection – The project should have reflection built into the learning process, with both students and teachers reflecting on what they learned, student work quality, and the overall success of the project.
Three Components of This Learning System
An additional aspect for teachers to consider about project-based learning programs is the three main components that are essential to the process. These components include:
1. Student Learning Goals
While the students may view the goal as finding an answer to the Driving Question, the learning goals the teacher has in mind are going to be different. They are going to look for:
- The ability to plan and then implement that plan
- The ability to collaborate with others
- The ability to think critically about a problem and solution
- The ability to walk through a process and evaluate their work along the way
- The ability to present material in a clear, thoughtful manner
2. Essential Project Design Elements
The design elements of the project-based learning model are:
- Challenging problem or question
- Sustained inquiry
- Student voice and choice
- Critique and revision
- Public product
3. Project-Based Teaching Practices
Teaching in a project-based learning model is not the same as teaching in a traditional classroom. It involves shifting your teaching practices to that of a facilitator instead of a direct instructor. Teachers will need to learn the balance of how and when to implement their ideas into the learning experiences of their students.
Why Project-Based Learning Is Important
Why is a project-based learning model so important? According to Edutopia, traditional passive learning isn’t effective in modern society. Today, students need to be able to solve highly complex problems that pull together all the fundamental educational skills as well as practicing teamwork and collaboration, problem-solving, analyzing information, managing time, and using technology. Project-based learning incorporates all of that. Its focus on real-world scenarios requires students to use modern tools to create their projects and fuel their learning. Here are some specific reasons why it is important:
Teaches Students Authentic Assessment
In a project-based learning model, students are allowed to constantly assess their work. This allows them to identify what is working well and make necessary changes along the way. By taking ownership of their learning outcomes, students develop a sense of independence. Additionally, this model promotes collaboration among peers, allowing students to enhance their group skills.
Promotes Learning Across a Lifetime
Students who engage in project-based learning develop a strong foundation of knowledge that empowers them to become lifelong learners. The autonomy they gain over their education carries over into adulthood, equipping them with essential life skills that will prove valuable throughout their lives.
Naturally Implements Technology
Furthermore, project-based learning seamlessly integrates technology into the learning process. Educators can leverage technology to effectively communicate with their students and program administrators. Similarly, students can utilize technology to engage in collaborative work with their group members, share valuable data, and exchange ideas as they cultivate their ability to work harmoniously.
What Are the Benefits of Project-Based Learning?
Teachers have observed several specific advantages when implementing project-based learning in their classrooms.
Elicits Higher Student Engagement With Learning Material
Active engagement with the learning material is essential for students to successfully solve problems and create meaningful products. In project-based education, passive learning simply won't cut it.
Boosts Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential for students to thrive in today's society, and project-based learning provides a natural platform for developing these skills. Through project-based learning, students have the opportunity to engage in activities such as interviewing experts, seeking different perspectives, and reflecting on their progress, all of which contribute to their growth in critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Encourages Collaboration and Builds Communication Skills
In project-based learning, students have the opportunity to work in small groups, fostering collaboration and enhancing their vital communication skills. These interpersonal skills can be challenging to teach in a traditional classroom setting, making project-based learning a valuable asset. By developing strong communication abilities, students are better prepared for future interactions with employers and colleagues, leading to increased engagement and success in their careers.
Promotes and Fosters Creativity
Projects demand a level of ingenuity to achieve triumph. Students cannot merely adhere to the conventional methods. They must explore beyond the limits to discover effective solutions, as creative problem-solving is a pivotal skill for adulthood. This elevated degree of student autonomy empowers them to unleash their innovation and imagination.
Builds Project Management Skills
Students will develop valuable project management skills as they learn to effectively manage their time and resources to complete their projects in this dynamic learning environment. These skills are highly sought after in adult life but can be challenging to teach in a traditional classroom setting.
How Beanstack Supports Project-Based Learning
As students embark on a project-based learning program, they dedicate an extended period to working on their projects. Whether it's a few weeks or an entire semester, this allows them ample time to immerse themselves in real-world problem-solving, a crucial aspect of this learning model. To support this process, Beanstack comes in handy, providing the necessary features and tools for students to excel in their projects.
Teachers can utilize Beanstack to design a personalized reading challenge that aligns with the project-based learning program. This includes a carefully curated reading list and engaging activities that complement the project. As students complete these activities and the necessary reading, they earn badges to showcase their progress. This valuable information enhances their knowledge base for the project-based learning activities, allowing them to delve deeper into the subject matter.
Beanstack empowers educators with the ability to personalize reading challenges according to their project's theme, incorporating reading and project milestones, as well as engaging activities. As the educator, you have full control, making it the ideal tool to enhance project-based learning. Take advantage of these resources and enhance your students' learning experience:
- Highlight ebook collections that match your students’ work
- Link to school resources or databases they need
- Link to learning activities that correlate with the project
Once the students dive into their project, take advantage of the user-friendly dashboard to monitor their progress. Even if they are collaborating on a group project, each student can individually mark their contributions. This feature seamlessly integrates into the reflection aspect of project-based learning, giving teachers the means to identify and support students who may be struggling with their responsibilities and workload.
Schedule a Demo Today!
Project-based learning is revolutionizing education by equipping students with the skills they need to succeed as adults while also addressing the limitations of passive learning. With Beanstack as a powerful tool, teachers can confidently embark on these transformative programs. Schedule a demo today to explore the endless possibilities of Beanstack in a project-based classroom environment and learn to unlock the full potential of our platform.