Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Project-based learning and teaching to reinvent education

I recently had some reflective time as I sat, stood and walked around a classroom for several hours proctoring an entrance exam. I was not allowed to do anything else because I was there to stop any potential cheating. As I reflected on my own boredom and what a waste of my time this felt like, I noticed the tension, frustration and sometimes boredom among the examinees was also palpable. I found myself thinking this is exactly the kind of education gone wrong that my wicked problem project team (Megan Hess, Meagan Provines, Brittany Schroeder and myself) was considering how to change, and I spent some time reflecting on our discussions and goals.

We had talked about promoting project-based learning, particularly things that are or could be tied, and applied, to the “real world” both during and outside formal education. We had also pondered some issues related to assessing these skills. During my reflective time during this standardized test, I concluded that assessing based on project completion is closer to what learners will face throughout life than standardized aptitude or achievement tests. Once out of school, most people don’t encounter many, if any, of these kinds of tests. However, most people do find themselves judged on the things they accomplish, how well they work with others, things they are able to produce. Even for those who stay in academia, it is the quality of one’s inquiry and of the presentation of one’s processes and results that they are judged on, not taking standardized tests. The reflective, collaborative project is a model that applies to people in many different fields and endeavors and deserves greater attention in education. See the embed below or click the link to see our Reimagining Education Project regarding promoting greater inclusion of project-based learning and teaching.

As I wandered around the examination room I also reflected on what skills people need to accomplish these kinds of projects, skills that educators should strive to develop in learners. I came up with this list off the top of my head: working with others (both leading and contributing to a team), self-expression (multi-modal), persuasion, negotiation, critical thinking (including rational evaluation, critical reflection on outcomes), working to deadlines, and life-long learning. It dawned on me that this is exactly what the CEP courses have been doing!

Click to be taken to our project presentation.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thomas, I enjoyed looking through your team's blendspace. Your mash-up video gave a firsthand insight into the collaboration that took place while your team tackled the concept of PBL. I was intrigued by the challenge that teachers should be evaluated with a PBL standard. Wouldn't that be refreshing rather than the formal assessment settings that you described in your blog post? Overall, I think your team provides strong evidence of the benefits of PBL in the classroom. Thank you for sharing your work!! : )


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