Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. PBL can be transformative for students. By presenting students with a mix of choice and responsibility, cognitive concepts and practical activities, within an environment of real-world authenticity, projects engage students in learning that is deep and long-lasting.
Through PBL, students learn vital 21st century skills as they are required to take responsibility, initiative and to solve real world problems. As they are doing this in small groups, they also naturally learn cooperative and communication skills in order to complete projects with others. As students work on real world and/or community problems and topics through PBL, motivation and engagement tend to be higher as they can see the potential impact they can have on the world around them.
In the past year, BOOKBRIDGE Heads of Learning Centers have been trained on PBL and how to implement it effectively with their classes. PBL requires a lot more teacher planning and well-developed facilitation skills, which may be unknown to learning center teachers who are more used to traditional classroom setting and activities. It may also be an adjustment for students who are given more freedom and responsibility than they are used to or initially comfortable with. However, once both teacher and students embrace PBL and start to see the positive impact on learning and motivation in the classroom, there is no going back.
Recently, we challenged students at our learning cneters (LC) to tackle the critical problem of single-use plastic over use and waste in their communities. We saw students in Cambodia do direct research with market vendors to understand how and why they use plastic bags, as a first step to understand how to change their behaviour. And at several LCs in Mongolia, teenaged students took the role of trainers and worked with children in pre-schools to teach them about the dangers of plastic bags. Several LCs also learned how to sew and made BOOKBRIDGE branded bags to sell locally. Some of them reached out to local radio stations and newspapers and one group started an engaging campaign called “No Plastic, No Problem” which even gained attention from the central department for waste management in the capital.
PBL is an active process of students learning by doing, of going into the world and building their confidence and real-world skills they are going to need for their futures. It is student centered learning at its best.