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Preparing Students for Their Futures With Project-Based Learning

By Linda Gordon, Senior Manager, Professional Development - East

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an instructional framework that allows students to utilize 21st century skills as they work together to solve a real-world problem, integrating language arts and content-area knowledge along the way. Using a constructivist approach, student groups take the reins on their cross-curricular projects, allowing the teacher to act as facilitator and guide, blurring the lines of curriculum. The process can be challenging for students and teachers, but can produce enormous rewards.

Research studies, including The Impact of Project-Based Learning on Collegiate Preparedness (2017, Brandman University), have revealed the positive correlation between project-based learning, college readiness, and future career success. Add to this the 2005–2015 trend reported by the U.S. Census demonstrating the consistent growth of the work-at-home population, increasing nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce, which underscores the need to explore this learning modality. In order to prepare our students for the ever-changing challenges of the modern global economy, we need to give them authentic experiences with the 21st century skills required for project-based learning.

To effectively implement PBL in the classroom, teachers and students need to be organized and have access to curriculum resources. To make the experience meaningful, standards and concepts need to be identified, rubrics created, and resources culled, making lead time somewhat extensive—unless teachers have access to Raz-Plus.

Located in the 21st Century/CC and Instructional Uses drawers of the Raz-Plus Resources Cabinet, teachers can find five Project-Based Learning Packs, available at each grade level for Grades 2-5. At the top of the page, the Overview provides suggestions on how to integrate PBL in your classroom. Under More About Project-Based Learning Packs, in the center of the page, teachers can find more information on the how and why of this engaging instructional framework. (Check out this video to learn more!)

Immediately below that are the common resources for all PBL packs and pack-specific resources, which can be divided into four categories: Support, Research, Student Reflection, and Assessment.

Support:

  • Lesson Plan presents teachers with extensive information about how to kick off, run, and wrap up each unit, including ELA and content area connections and learning objectives.
  • Driving Question is the focus and purpose of the investigation and unit, the place to start and finish.
  • Anchor Text provides basic information about the unit theme and engages students in the topic.
  • Teamwork Project Planner supports students, keeping them on track and accountable as they decide the goals and details of the project.

Research/Investigation:

  • Ask and Answer KWLS guides the investigation, igniting curiosity for the project, and continuing it after the formal experience is completed.
  • Driving Question Project Outline introduces students to the driving question, defines relevant vocabulary, and provides topics based on the driving question that will need to be addressed in their project.
  • Investigation Planner organizes and focuses students, narrowing the scope of the investigation and kicking off the search for appropriate resources.
  • Research Bookmarks remind students to evaluate their resources for bias, purpose, and appropriateness.
  • Reading and Activity Resources provide a group of primary and secondary resources culled and organized to assist with the investigation. The resources are printable, projectable and can be assigned digitally as well.

Reflection:

  • Teamwork Rubric, a student-driven resource, allows for self-reflection on preparedness, contributions and teamwork, including accountability statements for further interactions.
  • Peer Review Sheet offers a great opportunity to explore constructive criticism as students present their completed project to their peers for feedback and refinement.

Assessment:

  • Pack Rubric assists teachers with ELA standard and content skills assessment.
  • Presentation Rubric assesses the final student presentation utilizing a rubric based on Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards as well as 21st Century Skills. All skills assessed have been reviewed previously with the Team Project Planner, Teamwork Rubric, and Peer Review Sheet.

PBL is an engaging instructional framework that offers students a chance to prepare for their futures by taking ownership of their own learning. By giving students the chance to authentically practice skills necessary for the opportunities awaiting them, we prepare them for a future filled with unlimited possibilities.

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