The challenges of our rapidly changing world have caused educators, employers, and policy makers to think carefully about what it is that students should know and be able to do. There is significant agreement among these groups that students need content specific knowledge and skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving (also known to us at the 21st learning skills).
What can teachers do to provide learning experiences to address these needs in ways that are student-centered, inquiry driven, personalized, performance-based, rigorous and engaging? Author Suzie Boss proposes an answer: Project Based Teaching. In her book Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences, Boss shares seven elements essential to project design:
- Challenging problem or question – Projects begin by identifying a question or problem significant to the student.
- Sustained inquiry – Projects will require a period of study and research to find answers to the question.
- Authenticity – Projects have meaning and relevance to students.
- Student voice and choice – Projects are student driven, and students have a variety of ways to gather and disseminate information.
- Reflection – Students have the opportunity to think about their learning and share their thoughts.
- Critique and revision – Students receive feedback from the teacher or others regarding the project. Students have the opportunity to update their projects based upon the feedback received.
- Public Product – Students need the opportunity to share their project with the class, school, and community as appropriate.
Think about the topics you need to cover in the next quarter. Do any topics lend themselves to project based teaching? If so, start thinking of ways that you offer students the opportunity to engage in such a learning experience. You and your students will be glad you did!