13. Project-Based Learning

Project Based Learning


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Teaching and Assessing Creativity

Can creativity be taught? Absolutely! Above you’ve seen the characteristics associated with creativity, and I’m sure you’ll agree these are traits that can be encouraged and developed. This section of the chapter will introduce you to activities to use in the classroom to grow creativity.
The Torrance test for creativity includes measuring four components of creativity: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration in thinking.
Component of Creativity  Explanation  Activities to Encourage this Component of Creativity
 Fluency the ability to generate quantities of ideas Name everything you can think of within a specific category (the goal is to generate the longest list)
 Flexibility the ability to create different categories of ideas, and to perceive an idea from different points of view Name all the things you can think of that have a certain characteristic (wheels, for example), or come up with a list of ideas for the perfect bathtub (the goal is create different categories of ideas and perceptions from different points of view)
 Originality the ability to generate new, different, and unique ideas that others are not likely to generate Come up with the most outrageous solution for a particular dilemma (the goal is to come up with the most unique idea)
 Elaboration the ability to expand on an idea by embellishing it with details or the ability to create an intricate plan Take an existing idea and elaborate further (the goal is to embellish the most)

The Gifted Child Today article “Creative Thinking in Schools: Finding the ‘Just Right’ Challenge for Students” provides the following suggestions for teachers trying to incorporate more creativity into their lesson plans:

  • Diversity and large volumes of ideas and work increase the chance for creative outcomes, so encourage students to generate lots of work, and give them the appropriate tools they need to develop this work. Free students from busy work, lots of worksheets, DVD watching, etc. in order to get them working on projects and generating solutions.
  • Teach the value of hard work and discipline in finding solutions, solutions that make sense and aren’t simply nonsensical or impractical. The ability to decipher good ideas from bad ones is an essential part of the creative process, and a skill that also should be taught.
  • Encourage risk taking, and discourage perfectionism. Establish an environment that shows students that sometimes ideas fail, but the effort wasn’t wasted. Ensure that integrity is maintained during successes and failures.
  • Provide strategies for managing group dynamics, such as discussing with groups the possible difficulties that could arise, and how to troubleshoot those situations. Give the students a signal to inform the teacher when they need advice or mediation.
  • Set up a rubric for the final evaluation of projects and assignments. Guidelines, expectations, and goals should be a part of every project.
  • Layer independent study with group study, and give older students the option of working with students in younger grades.
  • Teachers should model creative thinking in how they make decisions, solve problems, and how they approach their instruction and guidance.
  • Encourage divergent thinking by providing students with nonconventional tools and supplies. For example, instead of using traditional art supplies, bring in objects that seem bizarre or out-of-the ordinary, and let kids create with these items.
  • Lessen the amount of extrinsic awards, such as stickers, special privileges, or an emphasis on the final grade. Creativity researchers have shown that extrinsic awards actually reduce creativity. Instead, encourage intrinsic satisfaction by providing all the guidelines, materials, time, and space students need to complete projects and assignments.
  • Allow time for student feedback sessions, and encourage responsible and productive critiques from all students.
  • Show exceptional work in libraries, hallways, even in community buildings and businesses.
  • Teachers that expect great things from students will receive great things.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning has students creating a product for an authentic audience to solve an authentic problem.
Project-based learning integrates knowing and doing. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter. PBL students take advantage of digital tools to produce high quality, collaborative products. PBL refocuses education on the student, not the curriculum–a shift mandated by the global world, which rewards intangible assets such as drive, passion, creativity, empathy, and resiliency. These cannot be taught out of a textbook, but must be activated through experience. (Markham 2011)
The keys to project-based learning are students solving authentic problems and producing a product as a solution. Note in Blumenfeld’s description below how many of the skills match those discussed above in the section on creativity and innovation.
Project-based learning is a comprehensive perspective focused on teaching by engaging students in investigation. Within this framework, students pursue solutions to nontrivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, communicating their ideas and findings to others, asking new questions, and creating artifacts. (Blumenfeld, et al., 1991)
The videos below from Edutopia, Common Craft and Alan November offer a great overview:

An Introduction to Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning Explained

Alan November TED Talk “Who Owns the Learning?”

Critical Components of a Project-Based Learning Experience

  • Need to Know – The idea here is to go WAY beyond “because it’s on the test.” The entry event can be almost anything: a video, a lively discussion, a guest speaker, a field trip, or a piece of mock correspondence that sets up a scenario. In contrast, announcing a project by distributing a packet of papers or assigning whatever is at the end of the chapter in the textbook is likely to turn students off.
  • Driving Question – A good driving question captures the heart of the project in clear, compelling language, which gives students a sense of purpose and challenge. The question should be provocative, open-ended, complex, and linked to the core of what you want students to learn. It could be abstract (Is all really fair in love and war?), concrete (How safe is the water we drink?), or focused on solving a problem (How can we create an eco-friendly house?).
  • Student Voice and Choice – The more student voice and choice, the more meaningful to the students! Choice and voice may range from selecting a particular topic from the general topic to choosing from a menu of products, to students making all decisions from topic to resources, to final product.
  • 21st Century Skills – Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, use of technology, an important purpose
  • Inquiry and Innovation – Students generate additional questions and hypotheses related to the driving question. The classroom culture should value openness to new ideas and new perspectives.
  • Feedback and Revision – The teacher acts as facilitator and coach to give direct feedback and guide students in reflection, self-assessment, and peer assessment.
  • Publicly Presented Project – Presenting to an authentic audience gives students pride.

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