Step-by-Step Guide for Project-based Learning in the Classroom

In our previous article about Project-based Learning, we have discussed the benefits and challenges of this teaching pedagogy. This article is our second part of that PBL series, and we will outline five steps for educators to start implementing this method into your everyday lesson.

Step 1: Project Design

From our previous article about project-based learning, we already know that the driving question that forms students' projects stem from real-world problems. Therefore, the first step of implementing PBL in your classroom is brainstorming issues of practice in real-life contexts.

As teachers eager to employ this new teaching pedagogy, you should answer the questions below: Why are these topics important to students? What should students remember in the future? How do they relate to students’ lives and other people’s lives? After figuring out the answers to these questions, you can start setting up the project.

Step 2: Preparation

In this stage, teachers need to guide students in two different areas: equipment preparation and project management.

First of all, we can sketch a big picture of the project and start researching which material or support is required for the course. Do they need extra cameras, recording equipment, or laptops? Do they need to contact field experts to help finalize their research questions? Do they need consent to conduct surveys in the community when they gather data?

After drafting essential equipment, students should learn project management techniques from their teachers. From setting a timeline to ensuring equal contribution, students need to know all of these before jumping into the launch of their projects.

Step 3: Project Launch

Before the launch

Time to inspire and engage students in the project. Let students have time to think of project ideas for a few days, explore the ideas themselves. Give them plenty of time to choose their driving question and formulate a research topic. You can engage them in dynamic activities (roleplaying, prediction, students take charge, etc.) in this stage.

During the launch

Observe the students as they inquire, plan, test, evaluate, compare, collaborate, communicate their works. Guide students in planning investigation and implementing their action plan by thinking about what experts might do and act.

Since classroom discussion is a vital component of project-based learning, teachers need to make sure that everybody can contribute to the conversation. The more discussion students have, the more they will learn from each other. Ask students high-order questions, which require them to analyze, compare, evaluate, and ultimately hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Because the project is real, so are the challenges. Once they start embarking on this journey, students might find themselves struggling to work through later stages of the project. Take your students through the critical steps and predict troubles that might arise. To minimize the conflict, assign roles at the beginning. Emphasize professional traits early.

After the launch

It is time to present the results! Since the project typically roots from a real-world problem, you should let students explain their studies to those affected by these issues. For example, if your students research the impact of noise pollution caused by traffic in the community, you can help them organize a town hall to present their findings. Whether they present to field experts, other students, teachers, or parents, students will learn more and receive valuable feedback through this experience.

Step 4: Assessment, Reflection, and Celebration

When the project ends, teachers and students will carry out assessments to see what students have gained toward the goal. The evaluation should be in different forms to assess various aspects (knowledge, skills, dispositions). Teachers can do assessments throughout the project, but in the end, there should be a summative assessment to summarize all results. Rubrics are helpful and thus necessary for the assessment process. Let students know how far they go by comparing with assessments at the beginning of the project. These include both their self-assessment and teacher-made assessments.

After assessments, students reflect on what they have done and experience. Ask them to propose what they should and could do next. Through this self-reflection process, students review their strengths and weaknesses, which can help them improve in their future endeavors.

After the project, a celebration is an excellent opportunity to bring joy, ease the tension, and cheer students up. Recalling project experience, especially student collaboration, is a natural way to illustrate students how important the process is, not just products.

Step 5: Teaching Reflection

After students are done, teachers work harder to investigate what they have learned, what they can do better next time, and what they should change. A record of the project is useful so that other fellow teachers and educators can give them critical feedback. Like students, teachers also need to reflect their work for further improvement. Sharing project insights can benefit the whole community to advance the method.

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