Projects are assigned, executed, and completed daily in the working world. As a result, in education, teachers are now designing project-based learning activities based on real world situations that challenge students to approach and achieve success in different ways. The goal is to help prepare them for the tasks and responsibilities that are likely to drive their workplace routines in the future. The Buck Institute for Education has defined several “project” elements that every teacher should adopt when implementing project-based learning activities. These elements are intended to help students achieve a “gold standard” and three of them are described below.
1. Student Learning Goals
Before designing a project-based learning opportunity for their students, teachers should first determine what skills and knowledge they hope will be learned or developed as a result of the activity. In other words, the project must be grounded in relevant and meaningful learning goals. For greatest impact and value, projects should support the development of skills vital to the 21st century, such as flexibility and adaptability. When projects are implemented successfully, students learn how to apply their newfound knowledge and skills to think critically, solve real-world problems, and answer difficult questions. Twenty-first century skills also include collaboration, creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving. As educators, we should be asking ourselves what skills do our projects focus on and what are the desired outcomes? Will students be able to apply this knowledge in the real-world?
2. The Authentic Challenge
The next step in the project creation process is to create a challenging problem or question that is both “authentic” and will allow the activities’ learning goals to be achieved. It is important that the challenge or problem be realistic and motivate students to seek solutions. An authentic project is one that relates to student identities, concerns and interests. For example, a student who is concerned about deforestation would find passion in an assignment which seeks to mitigate the consequences of this environmental issue. Through inquiry and self-reflection, students will use different resources to find and apply information to solve real world problems. Students should also be given the proper tools to find solutions. This includes technologies, such as student devices and interactive technologies, as well as any necessary instructional resources, materials, or equipment. By considering these elements, educators can ensure student will be up for the challenge and as a result, take ownership of their project.
3. Reflection and Improvement
Lastly, student “voice and choice” is extremely important during the creation process. Once the students have completed their inquiry and reflection activities, the project should encourage them to create unique solutions to the problem. As they work to finalize the result, students should have the opportunity to revise their work based on both peer and teacher feedback. “Reflection can occur informally, as part of classroom culture and dialogue, but should also be an explicit part of the project process. Formative assessments, discussions at key checkpoints, and public presentations of completed work should all be scheduled.” (Buck Institute for Education, 2018) To motivate them, the last touch of the “gold standard” is provide an authentic audience to showcase the final results. The final step should be one of improvement where students can reflect on and decide how they will better execute future projects, while the teacher looks to improve their project-based learning materials.
ELB Education is Here to Help
As a teacher, it can be a daunting and challenging task to create a project-based learning activity. Ironically, the whole process of creating a project-based activity is a project in and of itself. As teachers attempt to achieve this “gold standard’, they are often limited by the tools and resources available to them. Students need different tools and resources at their disposal to create unique solutions to these challenging questions. Students also require flexible learning environments to enhance collaboration, creativity and teamwork. At ELB, we support the creation of classrooms that offer the elements of flexibility required in project-based learning. From technology to furniture to training, ELB Education offers the solutions, knowledge, and expertise necessary for success.
Prowise interactive flat panels and Chromebooks enable students to conduct research and find solutions to difficult challenges. The panel’s integrated PC module gives students and teachers direct access to the internet in order to find the information they need for informed decision-making. Additionally, students can seamlessly upload presentations or documents from their student devices for peer or teacher review. Prowise Presenter, a free cloud-based software, allows teachers to give students feedback in real time during the creation process as well as create final presentations. Flexible furniture also enables students to work collaboratively and independently. In under a minute, students should be able to create personalized and collaborative learning spaces that support all phases of the project. The possibilities are endless.
Project-based learning is most effective when teachers and students are working within a flexible and diverse learning space. The sad reality, however, is that many teachers find themselves in a situation where their options are limited, when the fix is just a few simple steps away. ELB Education is ready to bring you closer to this ideal learning space where project-based opportunities come to life!
Click here to discover our range of Flexible Learning Spaces.