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A Brief Introduction to Project-Based Learning

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 9/21/2015

Project based learning (PBL) is a new approach that has transformed the face of learning by engaging students into productive and real-life projects. Read on to learn more about how this type of education works.

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    800px-STS-107-Students A number of learning approaches have been introduced and developed periodically to upgrade the quality of learning. Traditional teaching strategies (where the teacher was the sole bringer of knowledge) have been phased out. Student-centered activities have become the trend in classrooms. For years, teachers have been applying Cooperative Learning (CL) in their classes to promote more interaction among students and to allow more venues for the development of personal and social skills. It is an ideal learning environment, where exchange of ideas through increased opportunities for communication is made possible.

    Making Things Happen

    However, there seems to be something insufficient about the diverse learning approaches that have been created for the learners. The missing link is this - how can the skills learned in school be practiced and applied immediately in real-life situations? Students need to know how the concepts that they have gained can benefit them; otherwise, knowledge becomes stagnant when there are no opportunities to apply them. Project-Based Learning takes on the challenge of transforming education by allowing learners to utilize the skills and concepts learned in creating concrete and purposeful projects. These outputs gauge how much they have effectively understood a concept - depending on its end result.

    The History of Project Based Learning

    Project-Based Learning (PBL) was developed in the late 1960s for the primary purpose of training the physicians at the McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. In 1981, Dr. Howard Barrows moved on from McMaster to Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine Program to establish PBL in that area; it was completely developed in 1984.

    The Rationale of PBL

    As the name suggests, this learning approach allows the learner to conceptualize, develop and complete a concrete project with the application of the concepts acquired. Discussions and lectures are still provided in this approach, but for a brief amount of time. More time is devoted in the development of the project. The learners are given the chance to collaborate, think critically, learn about careers, communicate effectively, and tackle real-life problems and situations as they go about their projects.

    PBL represents experiential learning that facilitates the assimilation of complex information by the student. Shared experiences allow students to analyze alternative scenarios that can play out during the course of projects.

    Success

    The projects accomplished are those that deal with business and finance (investing in the stock market, or engaging in micro-finance), politics (scheming for a course of action to solve economic crises in the country), technology (inventing a system that can effectively improve human life), and so on. As the students become more aware of the social, political and environmental issues at present, they not only become well-informed citizens; the opportunities to brainstorm and accomplish purposeful projects develop them into global individuals who are capable of improving life in this world.

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