What Is Project-Based Learning?
Rajeev heads an organization that provides consultancy services to investors in the stock market. An old-school manager, Rajeev likes conducting…
July 25, 2021 | 7 mins read
Rajeev heads an organization that provides consultancy services to investors in the stock market. An old-school manager, Rajeev likes conducting personal tutorials that teach the basics of the stock market to all new recruits. It mostly consists of him talking and them listening. While this has worked for more than two decades, of late Rajeev is beginning to suspect that the new employees lose interest in his talk midway.
Rajeev’s assistant sends him a video on project-based learning, a one-of-a-kind learning system that prioritizes experiential lessons and is ideal for creating an interesting learning environment.
Though initially skeptical about departing from his tried and tested grooming methods, Rajeev asks his team to draft a fresh set of tutorials using project-based learning and finds that they work very well. The modules are able to keep learners invested, involve all the latest strategies of stock market consultancy and ensure healthy interaction among learners.
Project-based learning (PBL) is a pedagogical or instructional approach that encourages learners to apply their knowledge and faculties in a practical and engaging manner. Project-based learning is an excellent way of increasing in-depth knowledge and applying it to specific contexts. Learning takes place through challenges and problems that learners are likely to encounter in the real world.
Research has identified a number of key elements of PBL. These include a challenging problem or question that directs the learning experience, sustained inquiry and authenticity in approaching problems and the presence of genuine choice on part of the learners who must also be allowed to express their opinions. Another essential element is the scope for adequate reflection, critiquing and revision.
Daniel Pink, an American expert on business and human behavior, mentions in his book Drive that people are usually motivated by three things — autonomy, mastery and purpose. Project-based learning is meant to optimize all three. Moreover, PBL manages to create clear connections between all three things and prove their interdependence in empowering learners.
Collaborative studies show the implementation of project-based learning impacts the achievements of learners positively. They have also confirmed that following standards strictly and using proven instructional strategies boost the success rates of PBL.
To get a better understanding of the meaning of project-based learning, it’s important to understand its characteristics:
Project-based learning is multidisciplinary and involves interaction among different academic disciplines to prepare learners for different kinds of practical challenges they’re likely to face in the real world
There are certain basic standards that govern project-based learning. These include the provisions for empowered learning, creative communication, innovative design and global collaboration
Project-based learning is entirely learner-centric, where the role of the teacher is that of a facilitator and not just one who delivers content. PBL gives the learner a significant amount of independence and tries to incentivize them to make their own decisions
Project-based learning is extremely flexible, which allows it to be modified as per the needs of the learners. It can be implemented in-person as well as remotely, with the help of technology
Project-based learning is designed to enhance 21st century skills such as empathetic communication, cohesive leadership, friendly facilitation and team management, besides nurturing academic competence
Through its collaborative features, project-based learning complements social-emotional learning (SEL) programs that have become a crucial part in many learning environments
The importance of project-based learning and how it expands the horizons of learning is explained as follows:
The way project-based learning is designed enables learners to anticipate and analyze events and develop their skills accordingly. Project-based learning is not concerned with merely clearing the next examination or securing a qualification. It’s concerned with equipping learners with the skills and abilities to make their mark in a rapidly changing world, where technology, data and interpersonal communication are more important than ever.
It’s no secret that learning is most effective when it’s fun. The fact that project-based learning is built around the ideas of interactivity and engagement means it doesn’t suffer from the blandness of traditional pedagogy. Learners enjoy ample freedom to choose their personal ways of learning, while the numerous group assignments that are a part of PBL also increase the fun and participatory quotient.
A common complaint against traditional learning methods has been that they’re unable to combine wide-ranging knowledge with in-depth specialization on topics. But due to its flexibility and tendency to keep pace with the times, project-based learning addresses this shortcoming by offering considerable breadth and depth to learners. This, in theory, allows learners to become a master of all trades.
With project-based learning, learners can rest assured that they’ll be trained not only in terms of technical and empirical skills but also in terms of interpersonal and social skills. The goal of project-based learning is not simply to create an excellent professional, it’s also to build an individual with the right set of values. These values are integrated through the complex management of real-world problems that enhance a learner’s personality as much as they challenge their competence.
Since the individual learner is at the heart of project-based learning, self-actualization naturally becomes essential to the PBL process. But self-actualization doesn’t just mean providing autonomy and freedom for learners to do things their way. It also means giving them the necessary self-confidence and self-esteem to push their boundaries and focus on constant growth. Often enough, learners can thrive in academic surroundings but fail to translate that success into their jobs, where it really matters. PBL tries to counter this problem by helping ease the transition between academic learning and professional application.
The above-mentioned points provide a glimpse into the importance of project-based learning and why it’s become so popular in recent times.
To fully understand the meaning of project-based learning, it’s time to look at a couple of examples of project-based learning. This will help us examine how this learning methodology can be applied in the real world.
It’s expected that in any well-functioning corporate organization, their employees will be aware of the fundamentals of law and the legal consequences of their actions. However, through project-based learning, these fundamentals can be understood not only in terms of what they are, but also why and how they matter. Project-based learning makes room for multiple teachers or facilitators to teach the same subject in what may be called a combined course.
Through this, your organization can bring in a professor of corporate law for revision of legal statutes, a professor of philosophy to explain how corporate law fits into the vision of an honest and thriving industry and a professor of sociology to break down milestone cases in corporate law history that have had a ripple effect on society. Such a combined course makes learners familiar with the entire framework of corporate law, pushing them to follow it with ease.
Another of the typical examples of project-based learning can involve asking learners to come up with an application that incentivizes members of a community to:
Nurture more meaningful relationships
Seek each other out during times of need
Participate in more community-building exercises, from sanitation maintenance to cultural programs to fund-raising drives during natural calamities
To contextualize this project, learners may be asked to develop this app for use by residents of a specific housing society or residential complex. It’s entirely up to the learners to assess how to go about making the app, from collecting data to interpreting it as per the attitudes of the community members to identifying the areas where community engagement can be enhanced. Such an exercise gives a taste of the real world to learners and encourages them to learn on the job through experience.
Project-based learning is a relatively new addition to the world of education. But within a short time, a lot of possibilities have opened up through PBL, possibilities that can be explored fully with Harappa’s Inspiring Faculty Program. Through this, the members of your faculty will be able to take advantage of outcome-oriented pedagogical frameworks, embrace technology and innovative teaching and be a part of memorable and inspiring academic interactions. The Inspiring Faculty Program will also instill a range of must-have thrive skills among your teachers such as empathetic listening, masterful storytelling and openness to feedback through frameworks like the Pyramid Principle, Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Ladder of Inference. Sign up your institution for the Inspiring Faculty program today and give your faculty the chance to make the most of project-based learning.
Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Blended Learning, Outcome-Based Education, Learner-Centered Approach and Adult learning theory that will help organizations tap into employee potential.