Project-Based Learning Best Practice

Mia Jay, Staff Writer

For most of my scholastic career, “education” has consisted primarily of rather monotonous memorization and recall of information. Thankfully, a new trend of employing more dynamic methods of content acquisition and performance assessment is on the rise.

The ineffective, textbook-based ways of our past are giving way to a project-based learning approach that more adequately prepares students for the real-world challenges of the modern workforce.

According to Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance President Wil Evans, project-based learning has positively affected their schools: “Graduation rates and the college-going rate have increased; we’ve had record-breaking attendance and higher ACT scores. The transition to project-based learning will continue to boost our county’s academic achievement, providing economic benefits for all Maury County residents.”

People are not going to be quizzed on their short-term memorization skills in the real world like students are on tests, but many will be asked to give presentations and work in groups.

Immersive activities also encourage students to acquire a deeper understanding of subject matter, and train them to use that information in more effective ways. Project-based learning offers authentic experience that fosters long-term retention of both information and skills.

Sophomore Jack Pawlakos participated in the recent AP European History Enlightenment Salon Project, which asked students to role play as a particular historical figure. “I think that it encouraged people to learn more because they didn’t want to embarrass themselves in front of the peers during the time that they had to discuss… People felt like they were obliged to learn a lot, and also present a lot, so I think that they were kind of forced to get a deeper understanding of the time period,” he said.

Education researchers at the University of Michigan supports project-based learning.  In their study, students who used a project-based style of learning scored 63% higher in social studies and 23% higher in informational reading than the control group.

Furthermore, traditional testing is an outdated and inaccurate form of assessment. Minds work in many different ways; some are artistic while some are factual. Tests, as they are now, are based upon the factual mind, and are unfairly structured.

Projects, on the other hand, provide a variety of opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery. A course with more project-based learning opportunities will likely have more students reaching standards as the ways in which standards can be reached is multiplied.

This is not to say that traditional assessment should be abolished. However, the ratio of traditional assessment to project learning should be more balanced to accommodate different types of learning styles as well as to more adequately prepare students for the real world.