A Shift in Relationships
Relationships both inside and outside the classroom expand and grow with project work.
Using Community to Connect to the Real World
In the past, community may be integrated into the curriculum in the form of a field trip or a guest speaker. During projects, community is often the focus. Projects may include partnerships with local groups such as universities, foundations, or community experts. Learners contribute to their communities in service-learning projects and serve as environmentalists, data specialists, social workers, or scientists to gain different perspectives of what is happening in their community. Products and tasks become authentic when experts are invited into the classroom to question, speak, assess learner projects, and work in collaboration with learners. In many projects these connections with experts are essential to assist learners in completing quality work and promoting the learning process. Many educators may see this as more work, but connections are surprisingly easy to create and once made, take on a life of their own. The relationships built are invaluable to fostering authentic engagement and lifelong learning.
Working in a group is a life skill and an essential part of a project-based learning environment. Learners work in cooperative groups to brainstorm, discuss, give feedback, complete tasks, or share resources. Although, this shift to group work may raise the concern of individual accountability, this challenge can be addressed in many ways. By providing learners with specific, individualized tasks within the group and incorporating peer evaluations or individualized checklists, learners are held responsible for their work and their contributions to the group.
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