Introducing Project-Based Learning (page 2)

Introducing Project-Based Learning

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Updated on Jun 1, 2009

Wheatley says a student who takes her grades more seriously than her partners may suffer from this kind of learning, too. “Inevitably, group dynamics get in the way of the project, as partners fight over who is doing more work than the other,” says Wheatley. He grades his students as individuals even though they work in groups. “My rubrics always include skills such as responsibility, teamwork, and the ability to solve problems without creating new ones,” says Wheatley.

“I truly can't think of anyone not able to benefit from it,” says Cicero. If done correctly, he says, your child’s teacher can adapt a project and the responsibilities given to your child and her classmates to make the assignment appropriate for all. Many educators agree, of course, that a balance between teaching real-world, team-building skills and meeting curriculum standards must be preserved.

What can you do to support the project-based learning approach and apply this kind of learning at home? Here are some tips:

Introduce risk taking. Your child may be concerned with succeeding at a project the first time around. But project-based learning is all about trial-and-error and learning-by-doing. To encourage this environment, ask your child open-ended questions rather than give instructions when she works on a project. Let her discover solutions for herself – even if it means stumbling upon wrong answers first.

Enforce a team mentality. Parents can especially apply project-based learning in a household of siblings, says Wheatley. “Too many kids are treated as VIPs in their own homes, rather than as a member of the team,” he says. “The older they get, the more involved they should be in family decisions about vacations, budgets, and home improvements.” Boss adds, “ From planning a vacation to planting a garden, family activities offer real-world opportunities to put project strategies to work.”

Make textbook-to-world connections. Bring your child’s homework assignments to life when possible with occasional, unforced comments. If your child recently learned about photosynthesis, and you’re picnicking in the park, look at the leaves of plants and remind her of this process. You don’t have to drill her with a lesson; simply helping to make connections about the ideas she learns is enough.

Don’t solve your child’s problems. If siblings are caught in an argument, Wheatley recommends parents allow conflicts to occur to encourage children to solve them. “When parents or teachers intervene, the only message it sends is that they were unable to do the task they were given,” says Wheatley.

Bottom line? “Talk with your kids about the projects they are doing at school,” says Boss. “Ask questions that get them to think about what they're doing and why it matters.” Finally, familiarize yourself with the curriculum, so you know about the projects in which your child participates.

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