Project-based learning equips students to face real-world problems

The pandemic has further upended traditional teaching methods and encouraged both parents and teachers to reevaluate how students learn best. Project-based learning is an up and coming teaching approach that emphasizes solving real-world challenges through exploration and asking open-ended questions.

One project-based program, dubbed “Multiple Literacies in Project-Based Learning,” aims to develop students’ ability to understand the world by drawing on personal experiences. The program includes materials for curriculum, teacher professional development, and student testing. Studies show that this method not only deepens students’ understanding of science but also improves reading and math skills as well as social and emotional learning.

Each unit begins with an open-ended question such as: “How can we design fun, moving toys that any kid can build?” Driven by this question, students cultivate their own curiosity about how moving objects start, stop, or change directions. They collect data, build models, and analyze their results to use as evidence to support their thinking. Eventually, they go on to design and develop products which they then share with their peers.

A study that evaluated 2,371 third graders in 46 Michigan schools revealed that students who participated in the project-based intervention scored eight percent higher on the Michigan state science test than those who received traditional instruction. They also performed better in terms of collaboration, ownership, and self-reflection.

There is a great need for grade school students to learn scientific processes to understand the world. Their generation will likely be the ones to face the gravest effects of climate change yet and the recent pandemic only emphasizes the value of scientific advances.

Instead of relying on textbooks and dry information in the classroom, project-based learning gives students a better grasp of natural events, physics, and elements of design. They are encouraged to engineer solutions and gain the intellectual tools needed to search for relevant information when facing a tough problem.

There is still much to learn about the outcomes of implementing this method of education over a longer period, but experts expect that students’ knowledge of science, social and emotional learning, and creative problem-solving would continue to progress even past formal schooling years.

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