Project-based learning has established itself as one of the most effective methods for solving real problems in the classroom. The theoretical part of the syllabus is essential, however, sometimes we forget the importance of putting learning into practice. Projects allow students to face real situations, in which creativity and assimilated knowledge will be fundamental to overcome these types of challenges.
What is project-based learning?
Project-based learning is a strategy that allows students to solve real projects, putting into practice what they have learned. In general terms, PBL focuses on problem solving based on learning and research, therefore, there is no single solution, students are free to tackle and solve each of the projects they have to overcome.
Implementing a PBL process
Project-based learning can be developed in many different ways in the classroom, however, in most cases the procedure follows 3 phases or stages, which structure the activity.
- First stage: In this first stage the teacher poses an initial question, with a theme that will guide the whole activity. It is important that the question posed has a reflection in reality, and that it can be solved by applying what has been learned in class.
- Second stage: The second stage is based on the development of the solution. Once the question has been assimilated, students try to come up with an appropriate answer. Research and recall of the subject matter learnt in class will be the two basic supports on which they will have to rely.
- Third stage: In the last stage, the solution is presented, reasoning the answer and the previous process from which the desired conclusion has been obtained. It is important in the last stage of project-based learning to develop a public presentation, which summarises the content of the work done.
The keys to project-based learning
- The content must be meaningful, connected to reality and serve as a basis for building knowledge.
- The research must start from a previous question, which serves as a guiding theme throughout the process.
- Students are the real protagonists. Not only do they have a say, but they also define the development of their process in order to obtain an adequate response.
- It is important that students learn how to locate sources of research that will really provide them with an adequate answer.
- The final presentation reinforces the knowledge acquired during the process.
- The student is the protagonist, through PBL activities he or she will learn how to learn.
The advantages of project-based learning
If this process is implemented correctly, the result generates a series of advantages for the learner.
- Improved motivation.
- Stimulation of the creative side of learning.
- More preparation for real problems.
- More integration with peers.
- Improved learning in class.
- Addresses issues related to the subject matter presented in the classroom.
The importance of collaboration and group work
Collaborative learning techniques are very important in the classroom during any educational phase, but it is important to carry out appropriate procedures. PBL techniques have collaboration and group work at their core, collaborative research and eliciting answers encourages group learning and stimulates creativity.
The solution is obtained on the basis of participation, therefore ideas are accepted and discarded in the process, through a collaborative method. Stimulating social skills is also part of the objectives we achieve through project-based learning.
Process in assessment criteria
The evaluation of academic processes usually focuses on the result, without taking into account the process followed by the student, however, in PBL we must analyse and evaluate the procedure followed to obtain the solution.
In this sense, the final presentation allows us to obtain an explanation of the steps followed. Beyond the final product, the evaluation criteria also analyse the reasoning that has been followed to obtain the conclusion. It is important to remember that there is no single solution or process suitable for each challenge; each group starts from a set of knowledge and draws particular conclusions, which must be properly evaluated to determine whether the process and outcome are valid.
PBL in the different phases of the educational process
One of the main advantages of project-based learning is that it is applicable to any educational programme, regardless of the age of the students. Obviously, we must be able to adapt the challenges to the ability of each stage, but from the youngest to pre-university students can tackle learning projects, in which we seek a practical application to theoretical knowledge.
The research process must also be adapted to the capacity of each age group, in this sense, teachers guide the students about the sources that will be useful when extracting solutions.
The objectives in this case are similar at all stages of education: to encourage creativity and group interaction, to prepare pupils for real cases which require a solution and to encourage the search for information, with the aim of expanding on what they have learnt in class.
Syllabus at British School of Málaga
At British School of Málaga we develop programmes that focus on the acquisition of practical skills, rather than the accumulation of technical knowledge. Project based learning provides students with a framework for problem solving and this pattern is applicable both inside and outside the academic environment.
We base our teaching programmes on language learning, and in their continuous implementation, PBL activities also offer advantages over the application of language programmes, where it is important for the learner to develop adequate communication skills.