Understanding Projects in Project-based Learning: A Student’s Perspective
Michael M. Grant (University of Memphis)
This article shares the perspective of five students who completed an 8th grade geography project that focused on investigating civil rights issues around the world. Based on what students said about their experiences, engagement in projects is shaped by a combination of
- internal influences that motivate students,
- external influences they perceive,
- prior experiences and beliefs about projects, and
- reliance on technologies.
These are all factors that shaped student work, their understanding of PBL, and learning outcomes.
While students may understand the purpose of PBL, their decisions are often based on concerns other than meaningful content or skill learning.
"Participants considered the resources available to them, the amount of time it would take to complete the project, how difficult it would be to complete the project, how much effort was necessary to obtain a good grade and whether the project met teacher expectations."
Teachers play an important role in shaping how students perceive projects and learn during them, including whether students perceive projects as being designed "for fun" or "for grades" or for a more substantial purpose. Another important insight is that teachers should avoid relying too much on assessing learning artifacts, because they may miss important but less tangible learning outcomes, for example related to affect, the development of empathy or the decision-making process.
The student perspective is often under-represented in research on PBL. Paying attention to just a few students can yield important implications for research and practice. Studies like this are important if we want as many students as possible learn deeply and meaningfully from their PBL experiences.
Grant, M. (2009). Understanding projects in project-based learning: A student's perspective. Paper presented at Annual Meetings of the American Educational Research Association. San Diego, CA. April, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/research/study/students_perspective