Project-based learning (PBL) is one of the hottest topics in education, from language to library science. Yet, no area of education is more excited about PBL than science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers. According to a recent article in KQED Education (Is Project-Based Learning the Way to Go? by the California Academy of Sciences), more than 5,000 schools have adopted PBL as a major component of their STEM curriculum. This much is clear, PBL in STEM is on fire!
But, what is the spark that led to this flame of PBL growth and evolvement? Data, pure and simple.
In a highly-cited research report from SRI International (Curriculum Materials Make a Difference for Next Generation Science Standards), scientists proved that students enrolled in the Project-Based Inquiry Science (PBIS) curriculum from IAT outperformed students in traditional science curriculum. Thousands of teachers shared a related MindShift article (“Can Project-Based Learning Close Gaps in Science Education?” by Ingfei Chen) which highlighted the most amazing part of the study’s findings – that project-based learning (and, specifically, Project-Based Inquiry Science™ curriculum – PBIS) could effectively bridge gender and race gaps better than traditional science curriculum. When it comes to engaging students, PBL reigns supreme (just as PBL architect, and self-professed computer nerd Janet Kolodner).
As we reflect on the teachers, students, and communities that were touched by PBL last year, we can’t help but imagine what this year will bring. Through better integration with the NGSS, new technology for assessment and communication, and redefinition of what a classroom looks like, PBL will fire up the imaginations of your students through 2015 and beyond.
PBL Trends for 2015: 7 PBL Trends That Will Change the Way You Teach
1. Enhanced Collaboration and Assessment Technology
One of the biggest areas of growth in 2015 will be in the development of better ways to collaborate and assess during project-based learning. For example, IAT’s Laurie Kreindler (@LaurieEDU) will present a new student collaboration and self-assessment PBL app at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) that mimics the type of collaboration and critical thinking processes that scientists and engineers use in the real world. As the demand for collaborative classrooms grows, so too will the demand for supportive tools.
In addition, even though there are already tons of amazing collaboration apps, such as those listed by Terry Heike at Teachthought (30 of the Best Apps for Group Project-Based Learning), 2015 will be the year of project-based learning edtech with more advanced teacher controls, better integration with parent notification systems, and additional supports for high-needs students.
2. Emphasis on PBL Entrepreneurship
Although student entrepreneurship has been increasing in all areas of education, PBL for STEM subjects is a perfect arena to encourage innovation, design, and presentation. In a 2014 post (Raising Entrepreneurs: 3 Crucial Learning Techniques to Develop Tomorrow’s Innovators), Laurie Kreindler outlines how project-based learning is one of the key tools to teach the next generation the abstract problem-solving skills that will make them competitive in the potentially tight job market. While, at around the same time, writer Raleigh Werberger demonstrated how to connect the PBL-entrepreneurship dots in an informative post (Using Entrepreneurship to Transform Student Work).
3. The Rise of the Maker Movement
The Maker Movement was a huge trend in 2014, inspiring innovation through experiential learning. A combination of science, technology, engineering, math, and art, the Maker Movement lead to the creation of STEAM – a design-friendly STEM alternative.
In 2015, teachers and students will become more accepting of open periods of design-oriented problem-solving, as classrooms become Maker Studios where “students work on multiple projects simultaneously, and teachers are unafraid of relinquishing their authoritarian control” (Edutopia, “Maker Movement is Moving Into Classrooms,” by Vicki Davis). Learn how to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven HERE. And follow the education Maker Movement community on Twitter (#makered) HERE.
4. Gamification Unleashed!
Teachers will continue to use gamification as one of the best (and most fun) ways to teach STEM concepts. A recent article from Scientific American (“Fact or Fiction: Video Games are the Future of Education” by Elena Malykhina) highlighted the growing power of video games for STEM classrooms due to their inherent problem-solving natures. Applications like Kahoot, Robots, and The Radix Endeavor will become staples of the STEM classroom, combining addictive game-play with hard science content. And as investors continue to throw big bucks at game-based learning technology (D2L Raises 85 Million in Series B), look for edtech developers to flood the education space with more game-based learning (GBL) tools than ever before. To stay on top of GBL updates, check out the #GBL community on tweetchats on Twitter HERE.
5. PBL Classrooms Reinvented
This year, Edutopia drove major interest regarding how education space affected learning outcomes with articles such as “Why Learning Space Matters,” by writer and documentary filmmaker Ramona Persaud. Education guru, Ben Johnson, developed these theories more specifically for STEM classrooms in a later Edutopia article (“Design Tips for Science Learning Spaces.”) calling for bigger rooms, more lab space, and less clutter.
Still, the redesign of the PBL classroom will go deeper than just the slant of classroom chairs. As teachers incorporate more real-world issues into their project-based classrooms, students may find their classrooms going rogue – doing projects in working science labs, on building sites, and in open-air architectural studios.
6. Incorporating Real-World Problems in PBL Curriculum
As an extension of this reinvented PBL classroom and curriculum, STEM lessons will continue to gravitate away from desk learning and connect more frequently with social action. A great example is the Clean Tech Competition, a global competition that asks PBL classrooms to develop working solutions to engineering problems. Other evidence of this growing phenomenon is “If You Build It,” (Produced by Long Shot Factory, Directed by Patrick Creadon) which highlights the amazing effects of a PBL building project on the lives of 10 students in one of the most impoverished towns in North Carolina. Teacher Sarah Powley (@AmericanClassrm) recently documented how an inspiring group of high school students solved the real-world problems of a hospital as a part of their project-based learning classroom assignment (Project Based Learning Cures Hospital ED Problems – High School Students, PBL, STEM & Literacy). Welcome to the future!
7. Data-Driven Definitions of PBL
There will be a further push for a “transformation” of the PBL concept itself; turning a nebulous concept into a clear plan of action that school districts can implement on a large scale. As PBL thought-leader John Spencer stated in an Education Rethink article (“The Barriers to Project-Based Learning.”), this year will be the time when the greater administrations “…change [school] policies and paradigms…to see project-based learning go beyond the few bold teachers who are making it happen.” The real challenge will be to keep the quality of PBL education high, even as the scale increases.
With all the incredible leaps towards true experiential learning in 2014, the upcoming year could be your best for PBL education. Better technology, innovative learning spaces, and real-world problem-solving are only a few of the fantastic elements you can look forward to seeing.
For a full list of our trend-setting resources, check our list of the Hottest PBL Posts of 2014. Also, we’d love to know what your 2015 vision of PBL looks like. Share your thoughts in the comments below!