We honor children with a great deal of responsibility and we expect them to live up to this honor. Rather than seeing school as something being done to them, students are given the responsibility to carry out original academic projects, save work in portfolios, and reflect publicly on their work and their learning. They present their work regularly in school assemblies and in exhibitions for the town community.
– An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students by Ron Berger
Ron Berger is a veteran teacher from Massachusetts who promotes project based learning or PBL. PBL starts with an essential question which inspires and requires students to research. As students engage the question they will use a variety of skills across disciplines. Teachers will facilitate students in their pursuit of an answer using all teaching tools available. Projects must go through multiple drafts and critiques. The final product is to be presented to a vested community, often outside of the school.
To find out more you can download a pdf file of Work that matters: The teacher’s guide to project-based learning.
What does Why I Hate School and Love Education have to do with PBL? Students are in boxes. The classroom can be viewed as a box. The school building is a box. Tests and exams are boxes to be checked off. Do we expect students to learn or to fit in boxes?
PBL is a way to open the box. It asks teachers to design work which is relevant and motivating. It asks schools to allow students to leave the physical box of the building to pursue research and to exhibit their final product.
How can we open the box?