Monday, September 23, 2013

Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning

Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398.

This article presented arguments for why the project-based learning approach to classroom teaching helps people learn and develop intrinsic motivation and thought. It also framed how to best support and sustain learning in a project-based learning environment.

Project-based learning is a comprehensive approach that affects motivation and thought because students are offered opportunities to learn with a purpose. The article states that deeper learning occurs when topics are integrated and students are engaging in problem solving around a central question. It found that without the presence of a driving question, activities will not provide authentic investigations and contextualized problem-solving environments. When students must seek resolutions to a real world problem, they push students to pursue solutions through authentic tasks with an authentic purpose. This connects the bridge between classroom activities and real-life situations.

The argument also found that motivation goes hand in hand with tasks that students are actively engaged in. Project-based learning offers students the opportunity to access the curriculum through multiple modalities. It also engages students in creating an authentic artifact or product that serves a purpose of solving a driving question. Students are also given choice so that their interest is more likely sustained because they feel ownership over their learning. 

Finally, project-based learning supports motivation because the learning occurs in a social context and the modes of thinking and understanding are practiced in a community. When there is an authentic audience and students have more responsibility for guiding and controlling their own activities, they learn to deal with errors and how to contribute to a group's academic success. They are also held accountable for their contributions to the group and the tasks presented to them.

This article resonated with me as project-based learning is a practice I highly value and desire to learn more about. I chose the quotes below because they support a framework I think is important to have in a project-based learning environment. 

"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." (pg 372)

The section about the importance of a driving question and its affects on motivation are very interesting to me. How does purpose affect our learning? Providing children a driving question not only fosters curiosity but it allows students to learn with purpose. That purpose is the answer to the question which most students wonder..."Why are we doing this?" 

"The newer cognitively based approaches that contemporary projects represent also require substantial changes in teachers' thinking about and dispositions toward classroom structures, activities, and tasks." (pg 373)

This section about how teachers can provide best practices of project-based learning and how they should have the mindset to support students in this environment was valuable to me because I am interested in how to support new teachers with this type of curriculum. This section outlines various ways to support learning for students in this environment and also what are some challenges that may occur.

"To benefit from project-based instruction, students need to be cognitively engaged with subject matter over an extended period of time." (pg 374)

This quote supported the importance of taking time with your work and having longer periods to study a driving question. This gives opportunity for meaningful process and allowing teachers to create an environment of inquiry, risk taking and thoughtfulness. 

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