The shift to distance and hybrid learning this past year has caused many families and teachers to worry that their students are falling behind. eSchool News sat down with project-based learning experts Bob Lenz, CEO of the nonprofit PBLWorks, and Laureen Adams, the former curriculum and program manager for PBLWorks, to talk about what parents, caregivers, and teachers can do this summer to help students re-engage with their learning and prepare for the next school year.
PBLWorks created a free eBook for families and teachers called “This Teachable Moment,” which provides an introduction to project-based learning and 21 projects that students can do independently at home this summer, or in the classroom. Here, Lenz and Adams discuss why project-based learning is such a powerful way to keep students engaged.
What are some of the benefits of high-quality project-based learning, and why is it so effective in keeping students engaged in their learning?
Bob: The top five skills employers say they are looking for are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management. These are all skills students practice during project-based learning. At the same time, project-based learning engages students more deeply in the content – and that learning sticks with them. Students are more likely to remember how to convert units of measurement when they’re doing it for a cooking project than if they’re just given a chart to memorize. They are also going to be more deeply engaged in the content when they see the connections to real life, such as making a cookbook of family recipes.
Laureen: It’s also effective during summer learning for many of these same reasons. If students are engaged and excited about their projects, they’re more likely to participate in class discussions. They’re also more likely to take the initiative to work on the project during asynchronous learning time because they’re invested and want to see the project through to fruition. Teachers say that students who have been doing project-based learning for a while are more self-directed. They’re able to adapt better to an online environment and stay engaged in learning whether there are teachers in the room or not.
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