Project Based Learning

4 years ago

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended investigation process in response to a complex open-ended question or an engaging real-world problem. With teacher guidance, research teams of 3 to 5 students work together to investigate a topic, develop a project plan, and create a high-quality product solution. Students then present their work publicly to others. It is more than just “doing projects” as the dessert of the lesson; rather, the project is the main course where the learning occurs. 

This problem-solving approach to learning charges students to be actively engaged in their learning, while mastering key Common Core State Standards and developing greater fluency in 21st Century Skills. (See for a discussion on the research base.)  

Project based learning has some very important benefits for our kids:

1. Increasing intrinsic motivation and student ownership for their learning

2. Moves students from being passive consumers of information to active producers of new knowledge

3. Students learn content while practicing research and presentation skills

4. Deeper learning and greater ability to apply old knowledge to new situations

5. Students practice collaboration and critical thinking skills

6. Learning how to be self-directed and how to take the initiative to complete team and individual tasks

7. Improves ability to question and pose problems 

8. Encourages thinking about one’s own thinking patterns

9. Supports listening with empathy and understanding

10. Data gathering, synthesizing, making meaning, testing ideas, building on feedback, improving ideas

11. Ability to communicate with clarity, precision, and purpose

12. How to think with others

13. Builds on curiosity and sharpens imagination, creativity and innovation skills

Design Thinking

4 years ago

Design Thinking is a systematic approach to understand people, define problems, and engineer innovative solutions. Students use empathy to understand human needs, to develop insights and ideas, and to design prototypes. This learning model helps students to identify ways they can make the world better AND have the personal will and tools to take action. 

“Design challenges” are integrated projects in which student use the design thinking process to engineer products and services. Projects can be short to help students to learn the process or longer to allow for more in-depth, independent investigation.

There are many benefits to learning the design thinking process  They include:

* Ability and confidence to delve into unknown areas, interview effectively, uncover underlying needs, test hypotheses

* Critical thinking, synthesis of information

* Empathy, deep curiosity, persistence

* Ability to question assumptions and think "outside the box"

* Understanding that collaboration can accomplish a great deal, openness to others' ideas

* Ability to remain on task, discuss differing opinions with respect, share the workload

* Brainstorming skills in writing, drawing, or three-dimensional building

* Ability to shift one's thinking to a more playful, non-judging, idea-rich mode when needed

* Openness, flexibility, ability to hold one's ideas loosely, "what-if" thinking

* Action orientation, an open attitude, experience with a wide variety of tools and materials, a can-do attitude facilitating invention of ways to create prototypes, a pioneering attitude

* A new approach to failure by viewing it as an invaluable information source rather than a personal affront

* Active seeking and thorough evaluation of user feedback, reinvention or modification of thinking and/or design based on evaluation

* Basic project-management skills: how to prioritize, sequence, and plan, how to assess progress and adjust

* Development of entrepreneurial ability to see opportunities, take risks and created

* Empowerment, motivation, and problem-solving skills