Project-based learning is known as one of the best tool for student’s independence, generating enthusiasm and fostering higher order thinking.
But before practicing PBL, teachers and students must check the pitfalls and challenges it possess. It will help safeguard teachers from tiring and unproductive outcomes, and most importantly it will help maximize the value of a student’s efforts.
In this article, we have enlisted some major pitfalls of PBL that you must avoid.
1. LACK OF A REAL-WORLD CONNECTION
When we talk of PBL, we mean real-world learning around challenging questions that helps connect students. If it lacks the real-world connection, it can feel contrived and can lose the power to motivate students to engage in deeper learning.
To make real-world connections teachers can do it by investigating a local or global issue, connecting to students’ personal interests and concerns, simulating a professional product, or a process to solve a real-world problem.
Besides these to design PBL you can ask your students to put forward their preferences or questions like “What do you want students to remember from this experience in 10 years?” etc. to get a variety of ideas and powerful real-world connections.
2. FOCUSING ON PRODUCTS OVER PROCESS
When practice project-based learning focus on the process, not on products as destination. PBL is powerful because it’s an inquiry-driven learning process so focusing on the product (as a result) may not be beneficial.
To engage students in the process of inquiry, it is necessary to make them ask meaningful questions to investigate compelling real-world problems. Following this process, will not only help students build crucial problem-solving skills but also learn how to generate creative solutions to complex problems.
To be precise, PBL is powerful because it teaches students not just content and product development but how to learn through inquiry.
3. NOT PLANNING LEARNING AROUND TARGETED STANDARDS AND SKILLS
Most schools fail to get strong student outcomes through PBL maybe because they haven’t introduced a process required to design PBL around targeted standards and skills. They do have open-ended approaches to PBL but allowing students to identify their own problem to tackle and to design their investigation can be extremely powerful.
PBL must address the stipulated content standards. So teachers can simply begin with the end result in mind during the planning process. Whether a teacher is tackling a single content area or designing an interdisciplinary unit, they must hold a discussion of standards and how they can be connected to real-world learning opportunities.
Teachers should also check a student’s mastery of targeted knowledge and skills at specified points during the learning process, product development, and culminating project presentations.
4. ASSESSING INDIVIDUAL LEARNING THROUGH GROUP WORK
In general, school focuses on individual learning assessment through group products, a virtually impossible task. While assessment of final products is important, it’s critical to plan both formative as well as summative assessment of individual learning throughout the course of a PBL unit.
5. NEGLECTING TO BUILD A COLLABORATIVE CLASSROOM CULTURE
Culture in a PBL classroom looks, feels, and sounds different from that in most traditional classrooms. In a PBL classroom, students take the ownership of their learning. They collaborate with peers and adults on meaningful work, often as part of a team. This idea of belonging is powerful and research shows it can increase engagement and close achievement gaps as well.
It is essential for students to be involved in this type of team-focused environment it can create real challenges for them and for overall classroom management. Intentional approaches to building a collaborative classroom can be critical to successful implementation of PBL. Strategies include having students do mini-challenges like the marshmallow challenge to reflect on how successful teams work, and giving students a voice in creating classroom norms and more.
6. ”HANDS-ON” DOES NOT PROVIDE DEEP LEARNING
It is easy to mistake the hustle and bustle of students immersed in a project for productive learning but you need to check if the amount of time, effort, and materials spent on this task appropriate to the amount of learning achieved.
Hands-on projects are assigned with a motto to have students to demonstrate or reinforce a concept. However, it is the key that the project process itself produces an increase in skills or knowledge.
7. “TECH FOR THE SAKE OF TECH” DOESN’T TRANSFORM LEARNING
"Tech for the sake of tech" is the 21st-century version of the classic and uninspired "poster project."
Today, students have become entranced by the glamour of new technology. Video editing, programming platforms, and design platforms spark their enthusiasm and as a result, they sometimes lose sight of the original driving question.
Video projects are especially inclined to this trap. Students run around gathering props, setting up sets, and invest creative energy in editing decisions around sound and transitions. But fail to check whether these actions push their learning and addresses the driving question.
They need to understand that such skills are a part of the driving question of their project. But if not, you’ll need to create structures to help students stay focused on their driving question. This can be done by building in frequent conferencing and providing outlines and organizers. You might even provide an “order of operations” checklist that forces students to focus on content before designing. And the tempting glamorous special effects can be added towards the end of the project answering or addressing the driving question.
8. IMPOSING PBL FORMAT ON ALREADY EXISTING PROJECT
Many student might have struggled with this pitfall. Students mostly prefer to modify their existing projects with few tweaks and keep the rest products roughly the same. However, this doesn’t work.
It’s always preferable to draft new driving questions and allow those questions to direct my planning. You can also make use of backward design .It is the best way to build a meaningful project that would push student thinking.
Also, you should not push the existing projects into the template of project-based learning and identify new driving question. This may help students end up with a new original project outcome and have the evidence of their learning — but only if the outcome truly aligns with the deeper questions you want students to address!
What pitfalls did you avoid in your PBL practice? Do let us know in the comments.