Many teachers yearn for authentic learning experiences for their students. I personally favour the model where students aren’t given the answers, but are facilitated to find solutions to problems – after all this is what happens in the real world. This article, below, shows what can be achieved with a problem based learning approach.
A bank in Albuquerque, N.M., had a limited budget to make one of its branches more environmentally sustainable, so students at the local ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They searched websites for green design options, consulted with an engineer, and used spreadsheets to compare potential costs and energy savings.
With their newfound knowledge, the students used SketchUp software to create their designs, which included 3-D renderings of floors made from recycled materials and a roof that would capture rainwater. In presenting their final plan, the students gave bank officials a digital tour of the new building, showing off various design options.
This effort could serve as a model of project-based learning (PBL), which focuses instruction on real-world challenges and requires collaboration, creativity, and problem solving. But what makes this particular project more remarkable is the students’ expert use of the SketchUp modeling tool to present and revise the finished product.
“It was a way to prototype ideas and make them visible to share with the client,” says Suzie Boss, author and educational consultant. “The students were working in the way that architects do.”
more Schools embrace project-based learning 2.0 | District Administration Magazine.
Ravitz, J., Hixson, N., English, M., & Mergendoller, J. (2012). Using project based learning to teach 21st century skills: Findings from a statewide initiative. Paper presented at Annual Meetings of the American Educational Research Association. Vancouver, BC. April 16, 2012. Available: http://www.bie.org/research/study/PBL_21CS_WV
In 2008, the West Virginia Department of Education launched a major initiative to provide teachers with professional development in PBL. This initiative was intended to improve learning outcomes across the state and to help teachers prepare students for 21st century skills.
After three years of extensive professional development, including week-long summer institutes, BIE and the West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Research surveyed teachers who used PBL with extensive professional development and a similar group of matched teachers, to address the following research questions.
Do teachers who have used PBL with extensive professional development teach and assess 21st century skills to a greater extent than teachers who have not had similar professional development or do not use PBL?
How is PBL use and teaching of 21st century skills influenced by other variables — such as subject and grade, class achievement level, block scheduling, etc.?
Results are useful in clarifying measures of 21st century teaching, describing how these practices vary, and showing how they relate to PBL use.
This study seeks to determine the effect of project based learning (PBL) professional development and implementation on teachers’ perceived ability to teach and assess 21st century skills. At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, data on teaching practices and perceptions were systematically gathered and compared from two groups of teachers matched by demographics, grade and subject: teachers expected to have utilized PBL after extended professional development (44) and teachers who had not received the professional development or not expected to have used PBL (42). Teachers who used PBL and received extensive professional development reported more teaching and assessment of 21st century skills overall, with similar patterns seen within subjects and for nearly all of the measured skills.
This paper was presented at Annual Meetings of the American Educational Research Association. An official report from WVDE including more technical information on sampling is being developed. Additional analyses (not yet available) will focus on statewide standardized test scores as they relate to PBL use.
The survey measures of 21st century skills teaching were highly reliable (all alpha > .90) and are available by request for use in other studies.
Download pdf: AERA paper
Via: Using PBL to Teach 21st Century Skills: Findings from a Statewide Initiative in West Virginia | Research | Research | Project Based Learning | BIE.