I have had both good and bad experiences with Project Based learning. In each of the bad experiences, I would agree that the projects did NOT help teach the standards. May I explain the details of each:
- Bad Experiences:
- I was told by another teacher how to "force the project to fit my core"
- There was NOTHING in the project that fit into my science core
- I basically provided an extra period for another teacher to teach her core
- Good Experiences
- Each project began with an Essential Question that crossed multiple curriculum topics
- Each project design was focused on having students solve a problem
- Each project included a technology aspect that motivated students to participate
At the conclusion of both types of projects, I was required to give my students our State Science Curriculum Referenced Test. Those who were in the classes with the "forced project" experience did below average on the test. In all FOUR good projects, students who took the test did better than average on the material covered by the project. Informally, these same students commented about how much they enjoyed the project and working with others to solve the problem.
I would recommend that your friend consider the importance of reinforcing material to be learned with what students have an interest in. If a well-designed project includes this opportunity, students will enjoy and participate with much more interest. EACH project, good or bad, requires a greater amount of time and effort by the teacher to create the project.
In my experiences, I would NEVER do a "forced project" again - even if asked by my principal. I, however, would quickly jump at the opportunity to do a project that is guided by a broad Essential Question, focuses on solving a problem, and implements technology.
Glen, there's nothing like hearing it from a classroom teacher who lives it! Thanks for your thoughtful insights.
OK, my 2-cents. I totally agree with Glen. There is such a thing as PBL project design that addresses targeted standards, with better student engagement and better student outcomes in terms of depth and achievement. eMINTS Missouri has research data on the importance of quality lesson planning. That's what Intel Teach is designed to address, and the new Intel Teach Elements: Project Based Approaches eLearning course hits it right on http://www.intel.com/education/elements/index.htm
HA! How's that for a blatent Teach placement. It gives me Teachbumps!
- Bad Experiences:
While it's not always possible to predict everything that students will learn during the process of completing a project, I believe that every project should grow out of a desire to practice working together, taking responsibility for one's own learning, and to learn something new about the world as well as learning something new about the content on which students will be tested.
Of course we are not trying to "teach to" standards, but to lead students in work that allows them to have engaging experiences which help them to learn our content in real-world contexts. This will lead to truer understanding of the facts and concepts that are likely to be embedded in standards and tested.
The projects will facilitate students practicing 21st century skills ( would you like me to upload a list to give this person?- just say the word!) as they learn concepts and facts to be assessed.
Harrumph! Let me talk to this person!
Standards + PBL are naturals. In fact, a teacher would have to force himself to STOP attaching state standards in the plan, and then there are NETS-T and the 21st Century Skills standards to add. WHEW!
PBL goes across the curriculum, and the teacher who successfully incorporates it (some trial and error required as in everything worthwhile) finds greater return than expected.