Project Based Learning (PBL) - The Best Way of Learning
By Magdalini Zampouni (PBL Coordinator)
What is PBL?
Project Based Learning constitutes a teaching method in which students acquire knowledge and skills by working on a project for a predefined period of time - ranging from a week up to a semester. The main goal of PBL is for students to try to solve a real-world problem, to rise to a challenge, or to answer a complex/driving question. By triggering student’s curiosity and interest, this teaching technique initiates critical thinking and research. Thus, it can be considered exceptionally inspiring. (Bie.org, 2018)
Why have I chosen PBL as one of my main teaching methods?
Learning can be considered a complex process containing several dimensions such as knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, creativity and reflection. To meet our syllabi criteria teachers tend to apply various educative methods. Everyday we ask our students to communicate the knowledge they have acquired assigning them activities such as group discussions and presentations, individual classwork, home learning, quizzes or tests. We assess their work to guide them in order for them to meet different objectives/goals instructed in our subject guides. Yet, we cannot help seeking the one method by means of which a plethora of learning objectives may be met. To me, this is project based learning.
An example of PBL
While studying Environmental risks of Economic Development, the year 11 students in my Geography class at EBICA were assigned to work on a short term PBL.
The product of this work should be a debate. The topic was “Save the Earth (or not?)”; the project lasted one week.
After having studied the previously mentioned unit, the year 11 students had to watch two videos showing two different points of view on whether humans should take action to protect earth and future generations. The first video was a Ted talk by James Hansen alerting people about global warming and the future of humanity, and the second video a satire on human vanity to save the planet performed by George Carlin.
Students had to rise to the following challenge: “Imagine that you were James Hansen debating with George Carlin or vice versa; how would you do it?” To do so, they had to be divided in 3 groups of four where two members should debate for the one point of view, and the other two for the other.
The main learning objective was to conduct a valid debate using sound arguments of either taking action to relieve environmental issues on earth or leaving things as they are. To do so, students should use the knowledge and skills acquired by the lessons on Environmental Risks of Economic Development. In addition, each group member was instructed to try to find relevant scientific research to back up his/her arguments. Finally, each group member should be able to successfully collaborate with the second member of the group supporting the same point of view.
The final stage of the project was to demonstrate the debate in class where, the year 11 History students were the audience providing feedback for each debating group. The group achieving the most positive remarks would film their debate to be uploaded on the school’s website after considering possible improvements according to the feedback received from both the History students and the teacher.
What were the benefits of our debate PBL?
Students succeeded in achieving multidimensional learning meeting more objectives than those instructed in the syllabus vis-à-vis this particular unit. The debate project enabled them to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the topic Environmental Risks of Economic Development and to reflect upon possible management strategies. In addition, it encouraged students to develop skills such as investigation, application, judgement, decision making, evaluation, creativity, and most of all communication and reflection. Even if the final product has not been equally successful for each student, it cannot be denied that everybody worked doing his/her best to develop the maximum of the abilities mentioned above. In that sense, it can be claimed that students were challenged to demonstrate most of the attributes of the IB Diploma Programme learner profile (i.e., communicator, reflective, thinker, inquirer, risk taker and open-minded).
Given the benefits it offers it can be claimed that PBL instructed at intermediate learning stages constitutes the best preparation for more complex projects students will be assigned when at advanced learning stages, e.g. during their studies in the IB Diploma Programme or even at the University.
Yet, none of the advantages described above can be compared to the pleasure of witnessing the joy, the interest as well as the enthusiasm students show during a PBL lesson! I consider this to be a unique experience.
Like to see another project?
Click below to see how our students looked at mitigating the impacts of Volcanoes.
Bie.org. (2018). What is PBL | Project Based Learning | BIE. [online] Available at: https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].