In Part 1 of this series, I covered some general academic research on project based learning. Part 2 is focused on the educational theory behind project based learning. The structure is slightly changed for this post in an effort to better describe the academic articles. My ultimate goal is to bridge practice and praxis (Thanks for the comment Torrey!).
This is an ongoing series. If you want to recommend any research for me to cover in the future, add a note or send me a Tweet. You can also add a submission to the PBL publication here.
Title: “Getting a Grip on Project-Based Learning: Theory, Cases and Recommendations”
Author(s): Michael M. Grant (2002)
Brief Summary: Grant (2002) writes, “This article examines the theoretical foundations of project-based learning, particularly constructivism and constructionism, and notes the similarities and differences among implementations”(p. 1). Project based learning focuses on constructing knowledge through collaborative and cooperative inquiry learning. As students work together to develop personally meaningful investigations, they are engaged and invested in their own learning.
My Takeaways: The theoretic influence of constructivism is often cited in the rationale for PBL. Constructionism, learning through the social construction of an idea or object, is less referenced. In my opinion, more educators should become familiar with the theoretic underpinnings of constructionism as a teaching methodology. The article also discusses some barriers to implementing PBL. Both learners and teachers may not be used to the emphasis of group collaboration and find assessment difficult.
Title: “Process and Product in PBL Research”
Author(s): Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia (2000)
Brief Summary: The article seeks to glean insights from the process and product of PBL used in medical schools. The authors, Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia (2000), look closely at this process through the context of their experience studying project based learning with younger students. In relation to PBL, the article discusses theory building, lifelong learning, participation, and the role of technology.
My Takeaways: The authors spend some time discussing how the design of PBL influences how groups collaboratively build knowledge. The goal is to move students away from deducing an explanation from an event or diagnosis to offering an explanation for an event or diagnosis. It is the idea that students can move away from finding text-based answers and towards improving their own theories and questions.
Author: Wim H. Gijselaers (1996)
Brief Summary: Gijselaers (1996) seeks to contextualize problem based learning models with cognitive psychology and the learning process. Gijselaers describes fundamental principals of cognition relevant to both the practice of, and the instructional design, of PBL. Gijselaers also looks at opportunities to improve the effects of PBL on student learning.
My Takeaways: Gijselaers (1996) writes, “Until twenty or thirty years ago, education was dominated by the view that learning involves filling students’ head with information.” (p. 14). While there has been much progress moving away from this belief, standardized tests and rote learning reinforce antiquated views of learning. If we know learning is a constructive process, our actions need to reflect this. There is also a portion of the article devoted to metacognition. Metacognition, the skill of self-monitoring one’s learning, is an essential skill to build at an early age.