When children first start school, they are full of curiosity about the world around them and want to ask a million questions. They want to see and touch and explore. This is where traditional education, which focuses on information-gathering rather than understanding and contextualising, fails them. They are simply taught facts and figures: two plus two equals four, Pakistan has five rivers, Pakistan became an Islamic state after Partition. Being told that it’s important to know these facts is simply not enough. The purpose and practicality of learning pass them by, and the inevitable happens: they become bored with school.
Project based learning (PBL) puts students at the helm of the learning process. It engages and sustains their interest and ensures a deeper understanding of a given domain. Instead of learning a set of predetermined and decontextualized information, students acquire knowledge and skills that build upon their own experiences. Not only will they remember this information, they will understand how to apply it to other situations, building a lifelong habit of learning and acquiring vital workplace skills.
Meaningful and effective project based learning is the process by which students learn significant content, the required content set out in the curriculum.
- Critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication are the 21st century skills required for PBL. Students need to do much more than simply remember information; they need to use higher-order thinking skills and learn to work as a team. They must listen to others and make their own ideas clear when speaking, be able to read a variety of material, write or otherwise express themselves in various modes and make effective presentations.
- An essential component of the process of learning and creating something new is inquiry. Students ask questions, search for answers, and arrive at conclusions, leading them to construct something new.
- PBL is organised around an open-ended driving question. This focuses students’ work and deepens their learning by framing important issues, debates, challenges or problems. PBL reverses the order in which information and concepts are traditionally presented. It begins with the vision of an end product or presentation. This creates a need to know context and a reason to learn and understand the information and concepts.
- PBL accommodates student voice and choice. Students learn to work independently and take responsibility when they are asked to make choices. The opportunity to make choices, and to express their learning in their own voice, also helps to increase students’ interest and engagement.
- The process includes revision and reflection. Students learn to give and receive feedback in order to improve the quality of the work they create and are asked to think about what and how they are learning.
- Students present their projects to a public audience beyond their classmates and teacher on Culmination Day. Students are extremely well versed in the ins and outs of their projects and able to answer queries from the audience, spontaneously. It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to reflect on learning and showcase their talents. In the long run, this Culmination Day is about providing a platform to students for presenting the fruits of their hard work and prepare them for the rigors of this dynamic world.