Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pedagogical Justification (Gk - παιδαγωγέω δικαίωμα) for Project Based Learning

"Pedagogical justification." Well, that's a mouth full. It might as well be Greek to some folks. But to put that into layman's terms, "pedagogical" comes from the Greek word, παιδαγωγέω, or paidagōgeō, which literally means "to lead a child, or go with a child." In early Greek culture, the slaves were required to attend training sessions with the slave owners child, and the phrase meant to go with or accompany the child to school or whatever training session they were supposed to attend. We now use the term to refer to instructional strategies or styles of teaching.

What does this mean for this week's assignment? I'm supposed to provide support or justification for the use of Project Based Learning (PBL) in the classroom. Last week, I explained what PBL was and the six distinctive features that make an effective PBL classroom experience. We looked at three different classes and what was common among each.

This week, before I launch into the justification of why we should use PBL in the classroom, I want you to watch another video,
Picturing the Possibilities, Project Based Learning, that explains in further detail how PBL has been very effective in teaching math skills to students. (The audio is a little out of snyc, but it is worth watching.)

First and foremost in defending the use of PBL in the classroom, as the teacher in this video stated, "it's all about the learning." Of course we want the learning experience to be fun and interesting, but above all, it's about whether the students are learning. For those in the US, who have to comply to State standards, teachers have that added factor to ensure that students are not only learning, but learning that meets the State standards. So much of teaching that takes place at many schools, unfortunately, is not about the learning. The focus gets placed on making sure that students make it through the curriculum or creating a lot of busy work for them.

Properly designed and implemented Project Based Learning places a great amount of emphasis on student learning. By starting with the open-ended driving question for the students to develop and center their project around, students are forced to examine the essentials questions that engage higher order thinking. With that level of thinking, students begin to attach greater meaning to what they learning, because they now must analyze and synthesize the information into something relevant. The project forces the student to take what is known intellectually and apply it to real life. This is no small conquest. These real-life activities challenge students to become problem solvers, a skill that is critical for our future labour force.

If we as teachers are to take seriously the task of engaging students in learning for meaning and ensure that this learning is transferred into real world application, we must take seriously the use of Project Based Learning. When this approach to learning is constructed correctly from an instructional design perspective, it takes learning to new heights. The research, such as,
PBL Research Summary: Studies Validate Project-Based Learning, is starting to show that student achievement scores are improving, student retentions rates are growing, and student engagement is on the rise.

We only have look as far as this video we just watched and see PBL in action and listen to the comments from the teacher and students about their experiences and see how successful PBL is in the classroom. That being said, another research article, NMSA Research Summary: PBL in Middle Grades Mathematics states that "Project-based learning can only be considered a useful pedagogical strategy if, through its use, teachers can be reasonably assured that mathematics content and concept development are realized." A project for the sake of having a project does not mean guaranteed results. But when a teacher effectively establishes a knowledgebase with students that engages in learning, student motivation and attitudes towards the subject matter takes on a new reality. When students are excited about learning because of PBL, it is hard to argue with this approach.

So to summarize, when PBL stresses learning for meaning; transferring learning into real-world activities; high level thinking and problem solving; student engagement; research shows that students perform better academically and are motivated to become lifelong learners.


nmaust said...


Sounds great. The only thing I found was that when I tried to watch the YouTube video, it stated that the video was no longer available. It was probably a good one, too.

Vince said...

The video worked for me. Hmm!