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May 8, 2015

4 min

Mark Holley

Project-Based Learning: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in Students

Years of outdated thinking has created an ideal of "proper" education in most of our minds-we imagine a quiet, orderly classroom where all the students are sitting in rows at separate desks, listening and memorizing the day's lessons. It is astounding that even with modern advances in psychology and child development, this ideal classroom is still the standard for many schools across the country. Students cannot flourish when they are forced to learn at the same pace, applying the same skills to solve problems, and never using their own creativity to find innovative approaches. Project-based learning (PBL) creates a learning environment that fosters creativity and teamwork, and teaches children to use the tools at their disposal to find innovative solutions to problems that are always changing. PBL is beneficial to students in many ways :

  • Builds skills needed for today's highly technological society. The dominant style of teaching-learn these facts, apply them in a completely unrealistic "problem", and keep repeating the procedure to commit it to memory-just isn't sufficient for today's society. That style does not teach children how to work together, using their fundamental skills to reach innovative solutions for dynamic situations. Project-based learning provides students with the skills necessary to take charge of their own learning process, and use it to the best of their ability. According to Edutopia.org, skills needed for success in today's society include: planning, critical thinking, reasoning, creativity, understanding of other cultures, visualizing, personal and social responsibility, and an understanding of which technological tools work best for the task at hand. Project-based learning places children in real-life scenarios so they can utilize their knowledge to solv e real problems, which do not always require one same, standard answer. The same scenario could be solved in many different ways, and this type of learning allows children to understand that and learn to be flexible when solving problems.
  • Allows for easier and more accurate assessment by teachers. Standardized assessment tests have been proven to be unhelpful in truly determining a child's educational standing. Plunking a bunch of kids in desks with the same multiple choice questions that have to be answered in a timed format is not conducive to determining the extent of those children's knowledge. Some kids are nervous and become agitated when they know they are being timed, some worry that they will not do as well as their peers, and others are just not great test-takers. They may be able to explain to you the answer to a question, but they cannot write it out in words necessary for the test. The chances of a child's score being the same if they were to take the same standardized test on two different days are very low-so how reliable can the results possibly be? Standardized tests also do not assess a child's creativity or allow for any deviation in finding a solution to a prob lem. PBL allows teachers to assess children in multiple situations and understand their individual strengths or weaknesses, and how well they work with others. This can help teachers develop methods for helping each student achieve their goals in a way that is tailored to their learning style.
  • Offers an environment for all different types of learning styles. We all know that all children do not have the same learning style. Expecting an entire classroom to sit down and learn everything in the same way is unrealistic. Traditional classroom learning presents a challenge to teachers because they must either take time out from the whole class to individually address struggling students, or allow these students to fall behind because they have a different learning style than the others. Text-based learning does not allow for a variety of approaches, and holds many students back from using their strengths to enhance their education. PBL encourages students to solve problems with the tools they choose, therefore encouraging them to think creatively and enhancing their self-esteem.
  • Promotes lifelong learning. PBL encourages students to be a part of the decision-making process that affects their education. They choose how to solve problems, they choose the tools that help them best, and they learn to use technology to help them achieve their goals. In traditional classrooms, students are told that problems must be solved in an exact manner with no deviations. They feel as if school is a place they are forced to spend most of their days, and they rarely are excited enough to continue learning after the school day is over. PBL sparks students' creativity and natural curiosity, creating a thirst for knowledge that does not end in the classroom. These students continue to use technology in their free time to enhance their education because they believe that learning is actually fun.

PBL faces opposition in many schools, not because teachers do not believe it to be beneficial, but because of standards have been put in place for many cities and towns across the country. Teachers hands are tied in many situations, as they have to adhere to specific guidelines, testing regulations, and the amount of work that must be crammed into a school day. Many classes barely touch upon a subject before it is time to run along to the next topic. This seriously cripples students' creativity and will never allow them to learn how to problem-solve the way they need to in today's society. PBL encourages students to organize and present information while working with others who have different thought processes and use different approaches to the same problem. This results in innovative thinking that is just not found in today's traditional classrooms.

Learn More About Project Based Learning at Method

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