Impact of Project-based Learning on Education

The article is written by Dr. Jitin Chadha, Director of Indian Institute of Art and Design

The article is written by Dr. Jitin Chadha, Director of Indian Institute of Art and Design 


The article is written by Dr. Jitin Chadha, Director of Indian Institute of Art and Design

Today's age is one of cut-throat competition and challenges lurking around every corner. In such a demanding environment, the old-school model of rote-learning that results in negligible ability to implement knowledge is widely becoming inadequate to prepare students for a 21st-century world of complex enigmas.

When it comes to creating a generation that is adaptive, innovative and future-ready, education is the primary driver. Technology is disrupting and transforming both professional and personal landscape at an unprecedented pace. Herein, the responsibility of equipping students with the tools to deal with these developments lands on the shoulders of instructors across the educational paradigm.

What is Project-based Learning (PBL)?

Contrary to the conventional methods of teaching, project-based learning is a collaborative and application-driven approach. It uses real-world situations as vehicles to facilitate enhanced learning and a spirit of inquiry, while also integrating academic subjects across the curriculum.

These projects are different from the regular, short-term projects that are undertaken after a course ends, for instance, as a tool to revise the course components. On the contrary, these projects drive the primary framework of curriculum and course instruction. Within PBL, as this approach is often referred to, students can further use any medium viable for their research - field trips, presentations, exploring various materials, creating 3D models, experiments, and many more.

Students engage in such a project for an extended period, depending on their coursework - ranging up to an entire semester - working on finding innovative solutions to a complex question around a real-world problem. Ultimately, they demonstrate the skill learning through a report, a presentation or an actual product at the end of the project cycle.

Impact of Project-based Learning

Not only does this model inculcate deep knowledge about the subject in the students, but it also unleashes a hoard of soft skills like communication, team-building, collaboration and creativity in them.

There have been numerous researches over the years on the impact of project-based learning approach on the learning outcomes, students' and teachers' motivation, skill-building and general attitude towards learning (Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009).

Project-based learning encourages students to become independent workers, critical thinkers and problem-solvers. It urges students to form questions of their own, developing a sense of ownership of their learning process and outcome.

Teachers, in this ecosystem, function as facilitators rather than instructors, moving away from the overworked 'chalk and talk' pedagogy, as was also demonstrated in research by Barron & Darling-Hammond in as early as 2000. Fostering agency and competence in learners is an intrinsic outcome of a project-based approach to learning, also diminishing the need to regulate and supervise.

Industry-Academia Integration

Connecting real-world situations to academics is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of project-based learning, pushing students to learn from trial and error and succeed based on their interpretations and logical deductions. This equips them for the professional world since these techniques are what will eventually be used by them at their workplaces.

Additionally, since such projects are often large and complex, students are forced to work in groups, encouraging even the most silent of the lot to speak up and work collectively with conflicting personalities to find mutual accord, learning how to defuse tensions in a diverse team. This not only has a high impact on their interpersonal skills, but it also introduces them to specialisation, optimal allocation of resources and delegation, concepts prominent in the material world.

The market need for skilled workers necessitated the shift from classical models of blackboard teaching, and project-based learning does just that - simulating real-world problems to prepare students for progress by developing a balanced and diverse approach, as an individual as well as a team member.

Inclusion of Project-based Learning in Education

Project-based learning effectively bridges the gap between theoretical and practical education, promoting true knowledge, initiative and a better understanding of the subject.

With the advancement of technology and its embodiment in all aspects of life, the move to more technologically inclusive and application-oriented education is not only welcome but a need of the hour and should be adopted far and wide by educators across all strata.

The model is already being integrated at the graduate level, wherein, most universities ask students to work on a Capstone Project at the end of the programme to successfully graduate.

The educational arena sees tides of progressive change every 30-40 years or so (classroom teaching to MOOCs to blended learning). With the digital penetration and extensive adoption of technology in classrooms, project-based learning is a natural extension of an application-oriented pedagogy that most curriculums are moving towards.

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