Designing Effective Projects : Characteristics of Projects
Benefits of Project-Based Learning


Benefits of Project-Based Learning
What are the benefits of the project-based learning model?
Project-based learning offers a wide range of benefits to both learners and teachers. A growing body of academic research supports the use of project-based learning in school to engage learners, cut absenteeism, boost cooperative learning skills, and improve academic performance (George Lucas Educational Foundation, 2001).

For learners, benefits of project-based learning include:  

  • Increased attendance, growth in self-reliance, and improved attitudes toward learning (Thomas, 2000) 
  • Academic gains equal to or better than those generated by other models, with learners involved in projects taking greater responsibility for their own learning than during more traditional classroom activities (Boaler, 1997; SRI, 2000) 
  • Opportunities to develop complex skills, such as higher-order thinking, problem-solving, collaborating, and communicating (SRI, 2000) 
  • Access to a broader range of learning opportunities in the classroom, providing a strategy for engaging culturally diverse learners (Railsback, 2002)
For many learners, the appeal of this learning style comes from the authenticity of the experience. Learners take on the role and behaviour of those working in a particular discipline. Whether they are making a documentary video about an environmental concern, designing a travel brochure to highlight sites of historical significance in their community, or developing a multimedia presentation about the pros and cons of building a shopping mall, learners are engaged in real-world activities that have significance beyond the classroom.

For teachers, additional benefits include enhanced professionalism and collaboration among colleagues, and opportunities to build relationships with learners (Thomas, 2000). Additionally, many teachers are pleased to find a model that accommodates diverse learners by introducing a wider range of learning opportunities into the classroom. Teachers find that learners who benefit the most from project-based learning tend to be those for whom conventional teaching methods and approaches are not effective (SRI, 2000).

How does this model transform a more conventional classroom?
A professional development presentation developed by Intel® Teach to the Future (2003) describes a classroom where the teacher is using the project-based learning model effectively. In such a setting:  
  • There is a problem with no predetermined answer 
  • There is an atmosphere that tolerates error and change 
  • Learners make decisions with a framework 
  • Learners design the process for reaching a solution 
  • Learners have a chance to reflect on the activities 
  • Assessment takes place continuously 
  • A final product results and is evaluated for quality
For learners accustomed to a more traditional school experience, this means a transformation from following orders to carrying out self-directed learning activities; from memorizing and repeating to discovering, integrating, and presenting; from listening and reacting to communicating and taking responsibility; from knowledge of facts, terms, and content to understanding processes; from theory to application of theory; from being teacher dependent to being empowered (Intel, 2003).

What are the challenges facing teachers?
Teachers who bring project-based learning into the classroom may have to adopt new teaching strategies to achieve success. Having the teacher take the role of guide or facilitator is not the way that most educators were taught, nor even the way they were taught to teach.

Direct-instruction methods that rely on textbooks, lectures, and conventional assessments do not work well in the more open-ended, interdisciplinary world of project-based learning. Rather, teachers do more coaching and modeling and less "telling." They need to be comfortable with "wrong turns" that learners may make en route to completing a project (Intel, 2003). Teachers may find themselves learning alongside their learners as projects unfold.

Specific challenges facing teachers include:  
  • Recognizing situations that make for good projects 
  • Structuring problems as learning opportunities 
  • Collaborating with colleagues to develop interdisciplinary projects 
  • Managing the learning process 
  • Integrating ICT where appropriate 
  • Developing authentic assessments
Indeed, teachers may have to be willing to take risks to overcome initial challenges. A supportive administration can help by implementing more flexible schedules, such as block schedules or team planning time, and providing teachers with professional development opportunities.


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