This week in EdTech 542, we were tasked with searching for articles about the effectiveness of PBL in diverse classrooms. I found a great article on Edutopia, "Project-Based Learning Research Review: Evidence-Based Components of Success". According to the article, "Compared to traditional instructional methods, students engaged in small-group learning achieve higher grades, retain information longer, and have reduced dropout rates, improved communication and collaboration skills, and a better understanding of professional environments".
I believe that this very thorough shows that PBL can have a positive impact on diverse classrooms. With that said, it is important to calibrate the project design to avoid common pitfalls in a PBL setting. Teachers need to act as facilitators, modeling active listening, encourage students to explore contradictory resources to make informed conclusions, and be both realistic and flexible while planning projects.
In the discussion forum this week, we were tasked with researching projects and evaluating one using the "Essential Project Design Elements Checklist" from BIE. I really enjoyed searching through all of the example PBL projects. I noticed that most of them that I looked at had multiple artifacts tied to the project, a lot of student voice and choice, and a public presentation of some sort. The project that really stood out to me is the “Get Bent” project from High Tech High. In this project students used three-dimensional geometry, calculus, physics, art, and woodworking skills to design, explain, and construct books, posters, chairs, and lamps people would actually want in their homes. There isn’t a lot of background information on the resources site, but all of the student projects are on display on the project website. I was drawn to this project for two distinct reasons.
First, as a woodworker, the fact that these students planned out and made this exquisite furniture blows me away. These final products are a testament to student voice and choice. They make me realize that we often underestimate what students are capable of with creative freedom and a little guidance.
Second, High Tech High was the subject of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed. I have watched screenings of this film at multiple conferences and it is the original reason behind my interest in the impact that PBL can have on learning. I highly recommend seeing this film if you have not already.
As I would like to adapt staff professional development to PBL, I don't know how much this particular project is relevant. With that said, I think that the artifacts show evidence of how engaging and impactful that PBL can have on instruction.