Pedagogy of Project Based Learning

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As a rather recent alumnus of secondary schooling, I can vividly recall the frustration I incurred sitting in a classroom being “spoon-fed” information, knowing the minute the bell rang, most of the information that was being forced into my brain would be left in the classroom. I have always felt that, for the most part, being injected with lectures, hand-outs, independent studies and tests based on what I was “taught” four months prior was simply not conducive to thinking and learning. It was however, conducive to the regurgitation of information that would render itself quite useless in real world applications.

It is however not to say, that sitting in an English class was unbeneficial. I am aware that without those credits, writing this essay would be the end of me. Lectures and the absence of imagination have their place in curriculum. What I am saying is that I can recall working in my wood shop class ten times over recalling what X is equal to. I believe that form of educational model is simply inadequate when it comes to providing high school students with the challenges, methods, exercises and approaches that can help them use their aptitude in critical ways. Project Based Learning helps students to question and evaluate information.

Students will need to know how to solve everyday problems more often than they will be required to recite a Shakespeare sonnet, when it comes to real world application. Let me, if you will, pose some questions. Did school ever teach you how to verify, question or even challenge the information being spoon fed into your brain? Did school show you how to best organize your work while in a collaborative team? Did high school ever present information in effective ways so that complicated and convoluted ideas can be communicated easily to others? My answer to all of the questions posed is a boisterous “no”.

In today’s traditional classrooms, students typically work on simple assignments that emphasize short-term content memorization. They often work alone, write for the teacher alone, and rarely have the opportunity to solve problems that are relevant to themselves as individuals. They are trained to serve this one-to-one relationship with the teacher, which in my opinion is hardly representative of the demands and challenges that they will have to face in real life. I am a typical product of the Canadian educational system. I read Shakespeare and wrote prose and sonnets. Read also about the role of cognition in learning

I wrote an essay on “Of Mice and Men”. I even sat through my grade eleven math class… twice, and in doing so probably learned one of the most important lessons of my life to date. That that style of learning is not really learning at all. It is more like a training exercise. The teacher would hold up the hoop and the class would jump through it. Never knowing why, but simply knowing that it was required of us, and that if we did we could get a pat on the head and a passing grade. Shop class was different. It was in complete reverse to any preconceived notions of what a class room should be.

In that class I came alive. I never once had to jump through the teachers’ hoop. I was forever jumping through my own hoop. I was solving problems that pertained to me and my world. I had opportunities to learn from my mistakes without the mistake being a bad thing. It was the first time in my life where I got to learn from my peers and not solely the instructor. There wasn’t right or wrong, only problem and solution. I could not get enough. In fact, out of high school I became a Cabinetmaker’s Apprentice. The feeling I got working with my hands in that class moulded me and my career choice.

I have, since high school, had many problems to solve on my workbench and I have learned something from them all. I am forever grateful for Project Based Learning. For it is the love of being “hands on” that has yet again moulded my choice of career. I want one of my future students to one day be writing an essay about my class, and how it has impacted their life for the better. I know firsthand that by employing Project Based Learning, students are guided to work on longer term challenges that involve real life problems. This helps students see the complex aspect of any job or activity in a more realistic fashion.

This in turn will better prepare the student for the real challenges that will inevitably lie ahead. Project Based Learning allows students the opportunity to go through an educational experience which allows them to transcend the limiting nature of the one-to-one teacher-student relationship. Instead they learn by doing. They learn through self satisfaction. They learn how to collaborate and arrive at results efficiently while working with others. At the same time the teacher himself is transformed into a facilitator, a guide, a mentor, and with any luck a wonderful memory for the students that will have walked through my shop.

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