This week I’m reading about project-based, problem-based and challenge based learning and reflecting on how those types of learning apply in my own classroom.
The Buck Institute of Education defines project-based learning as:
…a standards based systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.
According to Jane L. David in her 2008 article entitled “What Research Says About Project Based Learning,” only a few studies have actually measured the effect of project-based learning on student achievement. While the studies suggest that project-based learning, when fully realized, can have a positive impact on student learning, they also highlight the challenges to fully implementing this type of learning. These challenges include: time pressures to cover curriculum content, teachers lacking training for managing multiple projects, and lack of proficiency in technology usage.
However, most teachers recognize that when students are involved in projects that revolve around their own authentic questions with the potential to impact their world, students are more engaged, learn more and have the opportunity to practice the skills that they will need when they enter the “real world.”
Problem-based learning is a type of project-based learning. Whereas project-based learning begins with an end product in mind or an “artifact” to be produced, in problem-based learning students are presented with a problem to be solved. (see this wiki for a more detailed explanation) Usually students assume a role to solve a problem. For example, they could take on the role of a medical entomologist investigating the problem of the West Nile Virus.
A study in 2013 demonstrated that problem-based learning in typical classrooms can help teachers identify advanced academic students who might not be identified through traditional methods such as standardized tests. Students who were previously overlooked as “gifted” were noted to have the traits of advanced students.
The most intriguing and interesting research I read about this week was found at Digital Promise: Challenge Based Learning. I learned about an improved project-based approach called Challenge Based Learning. CBL is a type of project-based learning but it is different from project-based and problem-based in that the problems the students are addressing are current and of global significance (poverty, climate change, sustainability of water, dignity for individuals with special needs)
In CBL, students:
- Work in collaborative groups
- Use technology in daily life
- Tackle real world problems with a multidisciplinary approach
- Share results with the world
The CBL Framework is based on three action steps: Engage, Investigate, Act.
Recently, my students completed their Active Global Citizen Projects and at the time I didn’t realize it, but now that I have learned more about CBL, I can see that there were elements of CBL. Now that I know more about this framework, I hope to improve on this unit next year.
Here is how our Active Global Citizen Project fits the framework of a Challenge Based Learning project:
I used the following unit website I created to introduce the students to the idea that children can be change agents in their community. We took field trips, a photo walk, and invited experts on community development to our class to speak.
We then brainstormed potential community projects and organized into three teams according to student preference. In their project teams, students conducted more research and developed a plan for change in their community.
After brainstorming, the three challenges the students developed were:
Create a new and improved school lost and found.
Create awareness for bear bile farming in Vietnam
Create awareness for respect and dignity for individuals with specials needs
The students then took action. One group organized the school Lost and Found so that it would be more accessible. They created posters so that students would know where to find the lost and found and posters directing students in where to put recyclables. They then presented their project at our elementary assembly using the following slide show they created.
The group for creating awareness for individuals with special needs organized an art show/photo exhibition for our school community.
The group creating awareness for the dangers of bear bile farming created the following video using Adobe Spark. This group worked the most independently with the help of my assistant teacher. I personally had never used Adobe Spark but offered it as one of many options for presenting. I was surprised they chose this tool but was even more surprised at how well they were able to navigate the tool.
Finally, the students presented their own speeches about issues that they felt concerned about. This was linked to our reading and writing workshop “Change the World” unit.