This knowledge about how people learn is the foundation of Project Based Learning (PBL).
If you Google PBL the first 40 or so articles, opinions and ideas are absolutely correct. The teacher creates experiences in and hopefully out of the classroom. The students, the co-designers learn by doing, changing and making. .
One might say, "There. We are done. Problem solved!"
Not so fast. The real problem often becomes apparent when the teacher implements the project. Some teachers fall back on outdated beliefs, which may include the idea that they have to tell their students everything they need to know before students work on the project. This is often followed by an impulse to quiz or test students on what the teacher said, rather than assessing what the students have learned and demonstrated through the creation of the project.
Teachers aren’t the only ones with problematic assumptions. School principals may become anxious when they see a classroom where students are out of their seats doing, instead of sitting quietly in rows. This anxiety comes from the misguided belief that quiet and compliant individual work is synonymous with rigor. Parents, driven by a similar misunderstanding of the nature of rigor, might ask their students, “Where is your homework? Without homework you will not be ready for college." Even some students think, “I would rather just be told what I need to know and then take a test so I can forget everything”. Regurgitation and recitation are great fun at parties. Some of the greatest scoundrels in history had one or two poems memorized and ready to go when enchanting party guests.
However that is not really learning.
When a student chooses a topic and then researches and experiments with ideas because they are interested, and then transforms their knowledge into a project, that shows what they have learned to the community. That is rigor. If the students can teach themselves, peers, parents and their teacher about what they are interested in, that is one rigorous project.
These are reasons that we need to think about Head, Heart and Hand when planning and doing PBL in the classroom. In great PBL, all students are able to find their own hook or path into a project.
These two animations offer guidance from two different perspectives on PBL.
Text Book Me Not, is the cognitive path. The animation outlines 21 concepts that we need to think about while planning, managing and exhibiting a project with students. The list is daunting, however it is doable.
Do Something is the psychomotor path. This animation encourages all of us to “Do Something” and then have the students “Do Something”, which they then exhibit for a public audience. It sounds simple, and it is. When we simply create situations in which student activity integrates the hands with the head and heart, the outcomes for student learning become amazingly complex in ways that are beyond what a teacher could possibly plan for.
So, pick a path and try it. Plan for the cognitive path, or the psychomotor path. Then try using the other path to support your classroom. There are no silver bullets in education. The work we do in planning must reflect the kinds of work we want our students to engage in. Do you want them to passively listen and regurgitate what you say? Then plan a lecture. If you want them to bring their head, heart and hands to their learning, then you have to too.