Friday, March 20, 2009
The Proof is in the Project
Project based learning is deeply seated in research as an effective way to engage students and produce better test scores. As the body of research builds, I decided to do a little research on my own. What is Project-Based Learning (PBL)? If you’d like to see PBL in action, spend some time with Mrs. Abernethy’s Global Gorillas. Whether students are reading, performing science experiments, or preparing for the state standardized test, students are deeply engrossed in a collaborative, project-based environment. How do they feel about this type of learning? View the results of a recent survey below.
Survey in a Google Document
1. When asked whether technology has helped them learn better, students responded unanimously, “yes.”
2. Given the choice between a paper-pencil test and a project for a grade, 83% chose project.
3. Students were asked which they would prefer to do the most to help them learn. Their choices and responses are as follows: read a book (15%), have the teacher tell you (12%), or work in a group (73%).
4. Students were given a list of projects they participated in this school year, and they were asked to choose the project they liked the most. A description of the projects and the results are below:
a. Class Election: Students participated in a simulated election. Click to see how the election worked. Students participated in a primary, held convention parties, gave speeches, planned campaigns, and participated in debates. In addition, the electoral vote process was employed in the actual class election. Before the election took place, students went to the polls to see firsthand how it was done. Later in the week after watching Barack Obama get sworn into office, our new class president and vice president were sworn into office, too. To learn more about this project go to our Election Blog.
b. Literature Circle Projects: Students are required to read one novel per month. Each week students create projects to demonstrate comprehension of the novel they are currently reading. Students are given latitude to exercise their creativity and they really do. From web 2.0 tools to paper-pencil, regardless the medium, students show what they read. To learn more, please visit our Literature Circle Blog.
c. Dinosaur Collaboration: Our class does quite a few collaborative projects with Mrs. Blazosky’s first grade class in Clarion. This is one of those projects. Students have been collaborating to build a Dinosaur Blog. My fifth graders created projects to teach her students about dinosaurs. Her students responded with projects of their own. From movies to Toon-Doos, the multimedia is rich. In addition, the fifth graders edited posts done by their younger collaborators.
d. Morpheus Fortuna: A traveling bog turtle, Morpheus makes his rounds to various classrooms around the state of Pennsylvania. Students enjoyed their visit with Morpheus and created movies and more for his blog and wikispace. It was meaningful to them that other students in their state would be reading and viewing their projects.
e. PSSA Projects: Students created their own projects to give tips for PSSA test taking. They created movies, interactive Power Point presentations, and other media rich projects. They shared their knowledge with other test takers across the state on a PSSA Blog.
Student results were as follows:
a. Class Election: 34%. Although this project was done at the beginning of the year, students chose it as memorable. Some reasons given were personal in nature. For example: “We got to choose our class president.” “…I got to run for Class President and we got to do awesome commercials.” “I remember doing signs and voting for Cassie.” ”I was a candidate till the primaries.” In reality, the students probably remember this project so vividly because it was so real and correlated with real life happenings (the Obama election.)
b. Literature Circle Projects: 23%. Some comments include: “What made this project memorable was that you had to do one every week. And I would always try to make the best one I could.” “Because we did them so often and their were so many different things to do.” “I’ve done tons of stuff for it, easy and hard. I’ve done things I’m very proud of during Lit Circles.” In my opinion, the variety, the hard work, and the use of web 2.0 tools will be very valuable skills for these students in the future.
c. Dinosaur Collaboration: 19%. Student comments: “Dino project because I made a video.”
d. Morpheus Fortuna: 11%. Student comments: “He was awesome and so much fun to do projects on.” “…I liked taking him to music and gym..”
e. PSSA Projects: 11%. Student comments: “Because I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I got to work with a friend.”
(To view more complete answers and answers to other questions, please take time to view the Google Document.)
What all of the student comments have in common is an enthusiasm for learning. Students enjoy working collaboratively with other students in their classroom and with others via the world wide web and video conferencing. In this day of state standardized testing, how do you justify project-based learning? Let’s turn that around. In this time of testing, how do we justify not using it? If you need further proof that project-based learning is effective, meaningful and worthwhile, please visit our website, and take a look around.