Houghton Mifflin's Project Based Learning


Project-based learning is a comprehensive instructional approach to engage students in sustained, cooperative investigation (Bransford & Stein, 1993).

Within its framework students collaborate, working together to make sense of what is going on. Project-based instruction differs from inquiry-based activity -- activity most of us have experienced during our own schooling -- by its emphasis on cooperative learning. Inquiry is traditionally thought of as an individually done, somewhat isolated activity. Additionally, project-based instruction differs from traditional inquiry by its emphasis on students' own artifact construction to represent what is being learned.

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
creating artifacts (Blumenfeld et al., 1991).
There are two essential components of projects:

1. A driving question or problem that serves to organize and drive activities, which taken as a whole amount to a meaningful project

2. Culminating product(s) or multiple representations as a series of artifacts, personal communication (Krajcik), or consequential task that meaningfully addresses the driving question. (Brown & Campione, 1994).

The Student in Project-Based Instruction

Students can be responsible for the creation of both the question and the activities, as well as the nature of the artifacts. Additionally, teachers or curriculum developers can create questions and activities.

Regardless of who generates it, the question cannot be so constrained that outcomes are predetermined, leaving students with little opportunity to develop their own approaches to investigating and answering the initial question.

Students' freedom to generate artifacts is critical, because it is through this process of generation that students construct their own knowledge. Because artifacts are concrete and explicit (e.g., a model, report, consequential task, videotape, or film) they can be shared and critiqued. This allows others to provide feedback, makes the activity authentic, and permits learners to reflect on and extend their knowledge and revise their artifacts.

Projects are decidedly different from conventional activities that are designed to help students learn information in the absence of a driving question. Such conventional activities might relate to each other and help students learn curricular content, but without the presence of a driving question, they do not hold the same promise that learning will occur as do activities orchestrated in the service of an important intellectual purpose (Sizer, 1984). Supporters of project-based learning claim that as students investigate and seek resolutions to problems, they acquire an understanding of key principles and concepts (Blumenfeld et al.,1991). Project-based learning also places students in realistic, contextualized problem-solving environments (CTGV, 1992).

Projects can thus serve as bridges between phenomena in the classroom and real-life experiences. Questions and answers that arise in daily enterprise are given value and are proven open to systematic inquiry.

Project-based education requires active engagement of students' effort over an extended period of time.
Project-based learning also promotes links among subject matter disciplines and presents an expanded, rather than narrow, view of subject matter.
Projects are adaptable to different types of learners and learning situations (Blumenfeld et al., 1991).

Citations:
**Project Based Learning**
Houghton Mifflin's Project Based Learning Space

Other Project Based Learning Resources
Edutopia Magazine - Project Based Learning
Buck Institute for Learning - Project Based Learning
abpc Wikiapaces - Project Based Learning
Tech Learning - Project Based Learning: A Primer
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