Students must learn by doing. That was American educator John Dewey’s theory in the early 1900s. “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn;” Dewey suggested, “and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”
This concept of learning from experience is the cornerstone of project-based learning (PBL). Rather than relying strictly on teacher-led instruction, project-based learning involves the students in projects that challenge them to find solutions to real-world problems.
According to a recent case study at a large suburban school district in Illinois, project-based learning resulted in improved student performance and better teacher–student interaction. And the PBL students seemed more motivated and engaged in their classes. “Project-based learning provides students with the opportunity to actively engage in the learning environment as they investigate concepts and skills,” the research report concluded.
Recently, Heather Buskirk, a K12 instructional methods advisor and board-certified teacher, spoke to popular nationally syndicated talk radio host, Bill Martinez, on The Bill Martinez Show about this successful educational method.
Earlier in her career, while teaching physics in an economically depressed area of New York, Heather found that project-based learning engaged her students in ways that traditional classroom methods just couldn’t do. “My students were excited because they were studying things that really mattered to them and felt relevant to their current and future lives,” she tells Bill. In the radio interview, Heather also stresses that education must keep up with the times and the now ubiquitous use of computers and smartphones. “We could look up any discreet fact,” she says, “what’s really important is that we’re teaching students how to manipulate knowledge, how to put it together, [and] how to seek connections.”
Bill added that project-based learning will be extremely effective in helping students prepare for their future careers. “The skills the students develop in an online project-based learning environment—technical computer skills, remote collaboration, critical thinking and public speaking in a digital space—are ones that are going to allow students to thrive in today’s workforce,” he noted.
Listen to the full interview here:
As Heather mentions in this radio interview, project-based learning is part of the curriculum at K12’s Destinations Career Academies, which offer career-focused electives in addition to core high school academic courses. With the Destinations project-based learning model, students learn professional skills by working with other students on assigned projects.
Bill Martinez Live! is a nationally syndicated talk radio show airing daily from 9 AM until 12 PM (ET) across the U.S. that explores topics related to current issues and events.