Project Learning - Six Steps to Design, Implement, and Assess in the Online Environment (07/21/2020)
Project based learning has various models for implementation.
Ultimately, the goal is to frame a project for learning. The positive
learning outcome provided through project learning is a
student-centered, inquiry-based instructional model in which learners
engage with an authentic, ill-structured problem that requires further
research (Jonassen & Hung, 2008). Students identify gaps in their
knowledge, conduct research, and apply their learning to develop
solutions and present their findings (Barrows, 1996). Through
collaboration and inquiry, students can cultivate problem-solving
(Norman & Schmidt, 1992), metacognitive skills (Gijbels et al.,
2005), engagement in learning (Dochy et al., 2003), and intrinsic
motivation. Despite the potential benefits of project based learning,
many instructors lack the confidence or knowledge to utilize it
(Ertmer & Simons, 2006; Onyon, 2005). By breaking down the project
based learning cycle into six steps, you can begin to design,
implement, and assess this applied in your course. Blackboard
Collaborate, Google Hangouts, and other collaboration tools contribute
to a valuable project based learning experience. For example, you
might teach an economics course and develop a scenario about crowded
Step One: Identify Outcomes/Assessments – Project
based learning fits best with process-oriented course outcomes such as
collaboration, research, and problem-solving. It can help students
acquire content or conceptual knowledge, or develop disciplinary
habits such as writing or communication.
Step Two: Design the Scenario - Think of a real,
complex issue (or scenario) related to your course content. It’s
seldom difficult to identify lots of problems in our fields; the key
is writing a scenario for our students that will elicit the types of
thinking, discussion, research, and learning that need to take place
to meet the learning outcomes.
Step Three: Introduce Project based learning – Give
the students a problem. Then group the students and allow time to
engage in an abbreviated version of project based learning, introduce
the assignment expectations, rubrics, and timelines.
Step Four: Research – Project based learning research
begins with small-group brainstorming sessions where students define
the problem and determine what they know about the issue (background
knowledge), what they need to learn more about (topics to research),
and where they need to look to find data (databases, interviews, etc.).
Step Five: Product Performance - After researching,
the students create products and/or presentations that synthesize
their research, solutions, and learning.
Step Six: Assessment - During the project based
learning assessment step, evaluate the groups’ work. Use rubrics to
determine whether students have clearly communicated the problem,
background, research methods, solutions (feasible and research-based),
and resources, and to decide whether all group members participated
meaningfully. It would be best if you considered having your students
fill out reflections about their learning (including what they’ve
learned about the content and the research process) every day, and at
the conclusion of the process.
In Summer 2019, Seidman College sent seven faculty to the Institute
on Project-Based Learning through the Center for Project-Based
Learning at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Those faculty include
Eric Kennedy, Ana Gonzalez, Anton Fenik, Bishal BC, Leslie
Muller, Joerg Picard,
and Brad Koch.
WPI’s approach to PBL is student driven with students
identifying the problem and the method for solving the problem.
Students engage in continuous inquiry (research) throughout the
information on the model underlying the WPI approach. You may
wish to reach out to one of our faculty who attended the PBL Institute
for additional tips and guidance for implementing project based
learning in one of your courses. Project based learning works in the
HyFlex, hybrid, and online formats with collaboration tools.
Barrows, H.S. (1996). Problem-based learning in medicine and
beyond: A brief overview. In L. Wilkerson, & W. H. Gijselaers
(Eds.), New directions for teaching and learning, No.68
(pp. 3-11). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Dochy, F., Segers, M., Van den Bossche, P., & Gijbels, D. (2003).
Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis. Learning and
instruction, 13(5), 533-568.
Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2006). Jumping the PBL
implementation hurdle: Supporting the efforts of K–12
teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based
Learning, 1(1), 5.
Gijbels, D., Dochy, F., Van den Bossche, P., & Segers, M. (2005).
Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis from the angle of
assessment. Review of Educational Research, 75(1), 27-61.
Gold Standard PBL, The
Seven Essential Project Design Elements
Jonassen, D. H., & Hung, W. (2008). All problems are not equal:
Implications for problem-based learning. Interdisciplinary Journal
of Problem-Based Learning, 2(2), 4.
Norman, G. R., & Schmidt, H. G. (1992). The psychological basis
of problem-based learning: A review of the evidence. Academic
Medicine, 67(9), 557-565.
Onyon, C. (2012). Problem-based learning: A review of the educational
and psychological theory. The Clinical Teacher, 9(1), 22-26.
Vincent R. Genareo is a postdoctoral research associate at Iowa
State University, Research Institute for Studies of Education
(RISE). Renee Lyons is a PhD candidate at Clemson University,
Department of Education.