Think back to when you were at school. What work did you produce that made you feel truly proud? It’s likely you will struggle to think of many pieces of work you produced at school which had any meaning other than to please a teacher or not get in trouble. At School 21 we want school work to be beautiful, meaningful and have an impact in the world.We want students to create work that is well above what is usually expected of school children.
Project Based Learning is a series of techniques that produce deep and authentic learning. At its heart pupils immerse themselves in rich subject content or a real world problem and through the application of knowledge and the development of skills and attributes they craft work of real value.
By producing products for an authentic audience and then accounting for them, work is lifted out of an exercise book and given greater meaning and importance. In the classroom, project lessons often look different from traditional lessons.The key to them is to make the project process transparent. Pupils know they have to do multiple drafts to create beautiful work so the teacher provides the relevant deadlines, curates the subject content (books, articles, video clips, resources) and provides a series of stimulating visits, Harkness discussions (a form of seminar), lectures, debates, small group tutorials to support students in their learning.
Often if you walk into a lesson of this type you see a variety of these activities going on simultaneously, workshop style: some students busy making their products, some debating key concepts, others being given focused input from the teacher. Projects tend to be easily accessible to students of all abilities while lifting the ceiling on what can be achieved. By giving pupils more ownership of how far and fast they can go, they often surprise teachers by the depth, rigour and quality of their final products.
The 8 techniques of PBL
Rigour is at the heart of any good project. Assessing that students have made progress through summative assessment is important for PBL learning. However, formal written assessment should not be the only main focus - it should form part of a broader picture of achievement. For example, the formal, summative assessment forming 25% of the total grade which also includes end products, 1:1 verbal assessments and ongoing formative assessment linked to 21st Century skills.