Project Based Learning (PBL) provides opportunities for students to collaborate as they solve challenging problems. This problem solving strategy is guided by open-ended questions which drive student lead investigative processes. Student groups research the problem, collect data, and draw conclusions based on their findings.
An example of a complicated PBL is assigning student groups to visit ten stations around the classroom. At each station there are different items. The challenge is to determine the socio-economical forces that drove those products into being made. Additional PBL learning activities include examples in science and math.
PBL is a comprehensive learning strategy which involves academic learning and building problems solving skills. One advantage of PBL is students learn that real life problems are not solved in less than thirty minutes and real problem solving requires research. An additional advantage is that students collaborate as they discuss, question, and complete tasks – the foundation of critical thinking.
Online Project Based Learning Resources
The following online resources require registration; however, they are free for educators and students.
Merlot – has sections which lead to student collaboration in thematic units with other content areas. There are thousands of well developed units covering the scope of core concepts in all content areas. This resource also offers opportunities for teachers to share advice and expertise with other colleagues.
Merlot assists in posing PBL investigations for students, along with providing online resources for student research. This is a leading edge online resource which is continually updated through interaction with educators and students from around the world.
Intel – provides a comprehensive resource for teachers to design effective PBL projects. This online resource goes into detail regarding how to invoke metacognition opportunities in projects. Another unique insight which Intel provides is the lens that students view through when completing PBL work.
Intel provides over 350 classroom PBL projects covering all content areas and all grade levels. The PBL resources on this website do not follow a cookie cutter approach, which permits adaptation to most classroom situations. Teachers will also find research-based resources regarding how PBL learning takes place, how to schedule PBL work, performance-based assessments, and encouraging student learning through critical thinking
Technology Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) – brings middle school and high school teachers together with college educators to improve science teaching and learning. This online resource is primarily focused on math and science through simulations, research, opportunities to collect data, reading and comprehension, interactive graphs, data displays, and online chats with other students and educators.
TELS supports web-based scientific inquiry as students use web-based resources to solve a problem. One example is an ecology unit on wolves. Students research the problem from both the wolves’ and farmers’ perspectives as students develop food webs, research habitat conditions, environmental conditions, and finally presenting their findings to elected officials.
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Making Connections with Problem Based Learning
Project based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. Students develop problem solving and critical thinking skills, while working in collaborative groups to solve complex problems.
Because project based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of subjects they are studying. When using PBL, students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they learn to think and solve.