I want you to imagine yourself sitting down for an annual performance evaluation at work. You’re in your boss’s office ready to discuss your various projects and accomplishments when she tells you that the bulk of the decision about your raise will be based on a test you’re about to take. Then she hands you a test booklet and tells you that you have two hours to complete it. Umm….no? That’s not really how the work world operates, yet it is how we run most educational programs. If we really want our kids’ education to prepare them for their future careers, we should be embracing project based learning.
What is Project Based Learning
According to the Project Based Learning website, “Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.” In essence, instead of utilizing worksheets and tests, project based learning focuses on students learning to gather information from various sources and use it to create something real and useful. Doesn’t that sound a lot more like what we all do for work as adults?
PBL Helps Kids Explore Passions
Discovering your passions is a key part of figuring out your future. If we want to prepare our kids for the future we need to help them discover those passions so they know what route to take. Project based learning will give your kids that chance.
If you embrace project based learning your child will have the chance to choose what project topics interest them. These projects can be a great springboard to future classes and careers. Isn’t that far better than randomly assigning topics that your child couldn’t possibly care less about? Not only will that help set the foundation for their future, it will make them far more likely to put the effort into their work today!
Choosing Project Types
Growing up we were never given the chance to choose what type of project we did in school. Write an essay. Make a poster. Build a diorama. Most classrooms don’t incorporate PBL ideals and aren’t focused on helping each individual child explore their passions. If you choose to embrace project based learning you can give your child the chance to choose what type of project they want to do. It could involve art, writing, music, building, or something else your child loves to do!
Our passions will one day become our skills. The beauty of PBL is that it’s going to give your child the chance to develop those skills. Your kid who is into building with Legos could become an engineer with enough time and desire. Allowing your 8 year old fashionista to choose projects related to clothes could lead to a future as a seamstress or a fashion designer. Wouldn’t it be nice to start developing the skills you’ll need as an adult when you’re young instead of waiting till you are grown (and busy)? I know I would have appreciated that!
PBL Helps Kids Prepare for the Future
What’s the purpose of education? Isn’t it to prepare us for our futures? Project based learning is the best way to prepare your kids for their futures, whatever path they choose in life!
Tests Aren’t Life Skills
Part of preparing us for our future is learning the skills we will use throughout our lives. If school is meant to prepare us for that future, it shouldn’t have a very heavy focus on tests. Taking tests isn’t exactly a life skill. We have to do it occasionally to get a license or seek admission to some program, but it doesn’t really feature heavily in adult life.
Preparing for Future Work
Most bosses evaluate their employees based on work products. They look at the various projects the employees have worked on and use that to decide who deserves raises, promotions, or dismissals. If we want our kids to be ready for these project based evaluations it only makes sense to utilize project based learning in their educations! That’s why my Journey Through the USA curriculum is project based!
Teaching Planning Skills
Proper planning is probably one of the biggest, sometimes most difficult aspects of ‘adulting’. When we’re grown we need to be able to envision an end product such as a vacation, a work project, or a meal. Then we have to figure out what steps are needed to complete it, and how much time to allocate for each step. Without those skills we might finally finish cooking dinner at 9 pm or get to the beach and realize we’ve forgotten all our luggage! Project based learning helps kids sharpen those planning skills early in life.
PBL Gives You a Better Picture of Mastery
I’m going to guess that you want to make sure your kids master the skills you work on in school. In my experience, projects lead to significantly higher levels of mastery than worksheets and tests do for a number of reasons.
The Problem with Tests
Most of us grew up with an endless stream of quizzes, chapter tests, and final exams in school. They streamline the process of assessment in schools, but they aren’t the most useful tools to get a picture of mastery. The biggest problem with tests is that they typically only cover basic knowledge with maybe a few questions that require interpretation of that knowledge. Project based learning offers an alternative to that.
Projects Take Learning Further
Completing a meaningful project requires students to take the knowledge and skills they have acquired and apply it to creating something. That will give you a much better view of what your child has learned than them being able to memorize a string of facts long enough to take a test.
Sharing Projects Increases Learning
The reason students have to share their projects with others in my Journey Through the USA curriculum is because sharing projects increases learning. It requires kids to ‘teach’ what they’ve learned to others, which means they have to understand it very well. That teaching will show you even more how much they understand what they’ve learned.
Embrace Project Based Learning
We don’t have to focus on tests and worksheets just because it’s what we grew up with. There are better ways that will help our children grow and help us to understand what they know. If you want to best help your child prepare for the future, learn to embrace project based learning!