Project-Based Learning

While stumbling around the interweb yesterday, I happened upon an excellent teacher’s guide to project-based learning.  This guide developed out of a partnership between High Tech High (a network of non-selective public charter schools in San Diego), the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and the UK’s Innovation Unit.

The guide explains in step-by-step fashion how students can execute a project tailored to most any learning outcome established by the instructor. Because the project has relevance to the students, they become invested in both the process and the outcome, and they take more “ownership” of their learning than they otherwise would.

Projects are scaffolded around multiple drafts, critiques, and a public exhibition. Most importantly, the instructor begins the design process by identifying what he or she expects students to learn from doing the project before determining whether or not each student has actually learned. To determine whether students are meeting intended learning goals, assessment occurs at several points throughout the project, rather than at only at the end after the project has been completed. The guide recommends that students’ work be  assessed in different ways:

  • by the student, in exercises of self-reflection,
  • by peers, to foster effective collaboration and to make it easier for the instructor to assess individuals within a group,
  • by the instructor, using the same methods that an instructor uses in in any other context,
  • by an outside expert or audience, as part of the project’s public exhibition.