Posted: Sunday, January 12th, 2014
Project-based learning is an educational approach that has become increasingly popular in the last few years. So, what is project-based learning, or PBL? It’s an approach in which students adopt an investigative approach to learning. And, fittingly, it emphasizes the completion of all kinds of projects. Work is often performed in groups, and the environment encourages kids to band together and think creatively in order to solve problems and complete assignments.
Like nearly all educational philosophies, the success of the approach depends greatly on the teacher. However, there are some pros and cons of PBL that are worth discussing.
- Students more easily develop team-building skills, which are essential in future work environments.
- The learning process puts greater emphasis on creativity, and students can see how their ideas can be successfully adopted and carried out to complete projects.
- Students are autonomous, yet they are also able to interact with one another freely.
- Real-world connections are more easily derived from the learning materials.
- Students get to know their peers better.
- Teachers who are not properly trained or equipped with the skills needed to facilitate a PBL classroom might not be able to help their students learn key concepts effectively.
- Conflicts between students might become more common and possibly more difficult to detect.
- Group projects that are not heavily monitored by teachers can lead to uneven division of tasks between students.
- It’s hard to determine how much each student contributes to a group project, which could mean that while some students are learning, others are letting their peers do all of the mental heavy-lifting.
- Parents might struggle to figure out how best to help their students, as homework and take-home assignments are hard to understand when taken outside of a group context.
The benefits of PBL are not only educational, but also social. The cons, for the most part, center around the difficultly of navigating group dynamics and how they affect the learning process.
When I was in school, I remember dreading group projects. Depending on the group you were assigned to, you could end up doing a lot of someone else’s work if you wanted to receive a good grade. That being said, there was hardly any structure or teacher involvement in these projects. Teachers were little more than passive observers. Now that I’ve gained a little perspective, I do feel that I would have greatly benefited from more extensive interaction with my peers, especially in the upper elementary school grades, as well as in middle and high school. When students are required to work collaboratively, they learn from one another and gain a better understanding and appreciation of what their peers have to offer the group.
To learn more about project based learning and how it works, check out this article.
Do you have any experience with project-based learning? Do you feel this approach should be more widely adopted? Let us know what you think in the comments.