More on Project-Based Learning

I’m still gathering information on project-based learning. My colleagues have approved a redesign of an interdisciplinary major, and the “culminating experience” course for seniors is changing from the traditional thesis to a research-based project. The course requires that each student’s project be problem solving-oriented, deliver a defined outcome with measurable effects, and be presented to the public.

Edutopia, a part of the George Lucas Education Foundation, has produced a very helpful guide on how to assess project-based learning. The guide is one example of how Edutopia is generating a tremendous amount of data-driven recommendations on active learning based on field testing in the K-12 environment. A simple example is the teaching of financial literacy to socioeconomically-disadvantaged students in Chicago.

Here, briefly, are the guide’s ten tips:

  1. Authentic, reality-based final products provide students with better ways to demonstrate what they have learned.
  2. Incorporate and assess “soft” skills, such as creative problem-solving and global awareness, to better prepare students for the future challenges they will face.
  3. When incorporating project-based learning into curricula, learn what the “big thinkers” in the field have to say about assessment.
  4. Because students will often be working on different tasks at different times, use formative assessment to ensure that students are mastering content and that students’ project development stays on track.
  5. Provide students with just-in-time feedback, in part to give them frequent opportunities to reflect on their reflecting.
  6. Teach strategies for effective collaboration, because students usually don’t know how to work well as part of a team.
  7. Embed assessment methods into the students’ use of digital tools; for example, an evaluated online discussion can result in greater participation among students who are reluctant to speak in the classroom.
  8. Provide students with an external audience; they will be more motivated to produce good work and will need to respond to challenging questions and criticism.
  9. Expand your repertoire of assessment methods and strategies through the free “do it yourself” professional development that is available on the Internet.
  10. Team up with colleagues — they are facing the same assessment-related demands you are.