Why we need to implement project-based learning

Narendra D Deshmukh, Sandhya A Thakur, Vinita Shrouty, Nivedita Deshmukh

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 puts great emphasis on creating a future of learning where the child is at the heart of the teaching-learning process. Project-based learning (PBL) is an effective way of developing 21st century capabilities by promoting critical thinking as well as problem-solving, interpersonal communication, information and media literacy, cooperation, leadership and teamwork, innovation and creativity. PBL is a collaborative, learner-centered instructional strategy where students work in groups to construct their knowledge and gain an understanding of the content. PBL can be effective at all grade levels and subjects. It can be implemented anywhere, anytime irrespective of the mode of teaching. Children get a chance to improve their communication skills, presentation skills, organization skills, time management skills, inquiry skills, self-assessment skills, reflection skills, group participation and leadership skills. During the implementation of PBL, teachers should inculcate the habit of continuous reflection among the students to produce high quality learning.

Implementation of PBL and our experiences
Shree Maa Gayatri English School (SMGES), Akot is located in a semi-urban area of Akola, Maharashtra. During the second lockdown as all schools were closed, SMGES organized an online summer camp for two months. During this summer camp, various activities were conducted to allow the children to be virtually in touch with their schoolmates, teachers and their syllabus. According to Haslam et al. (2021), PBL, even in the online mode, during COVID-19 helped reduce students’ motivation problems and feelings of isolation. Hence, we decided to experiment with PBL at SMGES, where one of the authors is closely associated.

During the first week of the camp, the mentors introduced the idea of PBL, its history, theory and types. They explained the objectives behind each project they had conceived (listed in table 2), elaborated on how to work on them and discussed in detail the steps involved in doing the projects – planning, action, observation, discussion and sharing. The mentors explained what kind of data the students needed to collect and how they should organize it. The students were asked to select any number of projects from a list of 10 projects (see table 1) based on their interest and availability of resources. Parents’ support was encouraged during the project work. As the children were working on the projects by themselves, there was an increased sense of autonomy. PBL promotes different scientific skills, such as observing, classifying, measuring, communicating and inferring. It also promotes mathematical proficiency, which includes conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, adaptive reasoning and productive disposition. As the children presented their projects using PPT, not only did their communication and technological skills become better, their confidence also increased.

Table 1: List of projects

Sr. No.Name of the project
1To measure dimensions of the furniture at home.
2To measure the length of the fingers of family members.
3To measure water intake of family members.
4To study the process of germination.
5To measure water used in a day for various purposes at home.
6To make a list of monthly groceries.
7To identify shapes of things at home.
8To learn a recipe.
9To make a herbarium.
10.To collect news on any topic from the newspaper.

In their PPTs, the students stated the objectives and conclusions of their project work. They explained in detail the procedure they followed. They shared their thoughts about the objectives behind their projects, what they learnt and also about their parents’ support. Mentors encouraged students by asking probing questions based on their projects. Students shared their experiences and described PBL as an interesting way of learning, which they had not experienced before. Parents described PBL as a teaching style that inculcates inquisitiveness among children and helps build effective problem-solving skills.

Table 2: Objectives of different projects

Project 11. To understand the concept of length, breadth, height, perimeter and area.
2. To understand the concept of conversion of units.
3. To apply the concept of length, breadth, height, perimeter and area.
4. To apply the concept of conversion of units.
Project 21. To study the relation between age and length of fingers.
Project 31. To study the concept of germination.
2. To study the relation between plant growth and number of days.
3. To study the effect of different types of soil on plant growth keeping constant parameters such as sunlight.
Project 41. To know the intake of water of family members.
Project 51. To know the quantity of water used in a day for different purposes.
Project 61. To know the price of various grocery items.
2. To know estimated monthly requirement of grocery.
3. To know daily requirement of grocery items.
4. To know the quantity of remaining grocery at the end of the month.
5. To know the money spent on buying monthly groceries.
Project 71. To study various shapes of things available at home.
Project 81. To learn how to cook, create and innovate.
Project 91. To learn about different herbs and their uses.
Project 101. To write the date and headline of news on a topic from a newspaper.

Based on our experiences, we can say that PBL paves the way for 21st century skills; critical thinking, creativity, cultural awareness, collaboration, problem solving, innovation, etc. It gives students the opportunity for experiential learning, which they can apply in real life situations. PBL makes learning meaningful, fun, stress-free and engaging for students. Implementing it during the COVID lockdown also helped mitigate some negative effects of full time online teaching, such as isolation, lack of motivation and difficulty in concentration. According to Haslam et al. (2021) under more normal circumstances, online teaching and PBL will coexist with many other social life practices and PBL in the virtual mode will play a more prominent role from now on. PBL has no limitations with regard to the place, it can be practiced in any part of the world and incorporated with traditional, blended or hybrid learning. A PBL strategy should be adopted consistently across the curriculum to aid the development of critical reasoning, communication and team-building skills among students and should not be restricted to COVID-19 like situations, but implemented as a regular practice in future classrooms when schools finally reopen their doors.

Acknowledgements: We acknowledge the support of the Government of India, Department of Atomic Energy, under Project Identification No. RTI4001. We would also like to thank the students and parents of Shree Maa Gayatri English School, Akot, Akola, Maharashtra, India.

• Haslam, C., Madsen, S., Nielsen, J. (2021). Problem-based Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Can Project Groups Save the Day?
• Project-Based Learning – https://www.fsmilitary.org/pdf/Project_Based_Learning.pdf
• Project Based Learning Handbook http://www.bie.org/about/what_is_pbl. Buck Institute of Education’s comprehensive overview of PBL
• Project Based Learning Resources http://www.iearn-canada.org/sites.htm. Collection of resources related to project-based learning
• Sharing Best Practices & Strategies in School Reform http://www.bobpearlman.org/BestPractices/PBL.htm. Bob Pealman’s collection of PBL best practices, pilot projects, and student work

Narendra D Deshmukh and Sandhya A Thakur work with the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai, Maharashtra. They can be reached at ndd@hbcse.tifr.res.in and sandhyajit@gmail.com respectively.

Vinita Shrouty and Nivedita Deshmukh are with Shree Maa Gayatri English School, Akot, Akola, Maharashtra. They can be reached at niveditadeshmukh@ymail.com and vinitakatpatal@gmail.com respectively.

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