If I’d had a math teacher like Alfred Solis from San Diego’s High Tech High School, I may not be writing this blog today. Instead, I might be designing spacecraft or improving the way factories use chemicals or using technology to imitate biology. Not that writing is a lesser profession …
My point is, Mr. Solis is doing some really cool things in his 9th grade math classroom that may have ignited something – logic, numbers, reasoning – in the left side of my brain.
He’s a PBL guy and his presentation during Day One of Austin’s SXSWedu conference illuminated, via examples from his classroom, as well as several others across the country, the eight essential elements of project-based learning from the Buck Institute for Education (BIE).
Based on research, theory, and classroom experiences, BIE suggests that for project-based learning to be relevant and meaningful, it should include these eight elements:
- Significant Content – The project is focused on important knowledge, concepts, and skills derived from standards.
- 21st Century Skills – Students build critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and other skills needed for success in today’s world.
- In-Depth Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, gathering information, and developing original answers.
- Driving Question – Project work is guided by an intriguing, open-ended question, often created or modified by the student.
- Need to Know – The project creates an authentic purpose for learning, beginning with an Entry Event.
- Voice and Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create. PBL works best when students have a genuine interest in the project they’re pursuing, emphasized Solis.
- Revision and Reflection – Students give, get, and use feedback to improve their work, and reflect on their learning. Solis says this is one of the toughest elements to incorporate, because often teachers feel the need to “keep moving on” once a project is complete.
- Public Audience – Students create projects for or present work to people beyond their classroom. Examples include exhibits and gallery walks.
When done right, PBL promises deeper learning outcomes, higher student engagement, and the development of vital 21st century skills, including communication, collaborations, critical thinking, and creativity.
Solis recommended that educators who are beginning to incorporate project-based learning into their classrooms turn to Goldilocks for help. In other words, look for projects that are not too hot or too cold; not too big or too small. But rather, start with projects that feel just right for students, teacher, and classroom.