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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

In this video captured at Charles R. Drew Charter School, third-grade students used PBL to prepare for the next Snowpocalypse. You will see how students go through a project from the initial step such as developing driving questions to the end of a project: coming up with a solution that sticks! You can read more on the school's different techniques to integrate Project-based Learning into the STEAM curriculum here.

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. 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.

Some questions for self-reflection include:

  1. What is the most important thing you learned in this project?

  2. What do you wish you have spent more time on, or done differently?

  3. What part of the project did you do your best work on?

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 to students how important the process is, not just products.

Step 5: Teaching Reflection

After students are done, teachers investigate what they, as instructors, 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 on their work for further improvement. Sharing project insights can benefit the whole community to advance the method.


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