Still More on Project-Based Learning

I’ve written before on project-based learning (PBL)* and I can see how this could revolutionize my teaching. In fact, I’m so intrigued with the possibilities that I’m figuring out how to integrate PBL into two courses that I teach on globalization and development.

Houston mission controlMy main concern is getting students to collaborate in the classroom. Edutopia’s guide on assessing PBL rightly points out that students have to be taught how to collaborate effectively, and I have not yet been able to do this well with my own students. It’s been difficult convincing students that what they’ve learned about education in their K-12 years — sit quietly, listen to the teacher, and complete tasks in isolation — will only take them so far. The difficulty only gets reinforced by the way in which the overall curriculum is organized — although teamwork is an essential skill in the workplace, many students only experience it as college students in optional co-curricular activities outside of the classroom.

An internet search for project management tools that might help me led to Edutopia, which has profiled Manor New Technology High School. At Manor, the entire curriculum is PBL-based. An excellent rubric helps teachers there first identify necessary learning outcomes and then design a project in which students can demonstrate achievement of them. A peer review worksheet is used in the classroom to promote constructive communication. This short video explains the process from start to finish.

I also found two videos from High Tech High — one on why PBL is “authentic education” and another on what PBL is not.

Last, I found this index of teacher tools for project management by Antioch University of New England. Most interesting to me — for classroom activities thtat generate communication and collaboration — are the worksheets on:

  • Ideas, people, process, products
  • Helps and hindrances
  • Plus, minus, interesting
  • Skill/disposition feedback.

I find it strange that all of the material I found — although I admit my search was quite cursory — was created by or for elementary and high school educators. My research did not turn up anything aimed specifically at university undergraduates. If you have any examples of this kind of information, please let me know by posting a comment here.

*In educational contexts, PBL also often refers to problem-based learning, which is quite similar.