CTE Month: What is project based learning and why is it so important?

In celebration of Career and Technical Education Month, we will feature stories about CTE students, teachers and programs here on Children First and also onMyAcademyBlog.com. You can also follow@MyFutureMyWay and @MNPSCTERocks for fun CTE facts and information. Ed jargon explained! There are so many (so so many) acronyms and so much education jargon flying around these days. Let's take a close look at one that's becoming more and more prominent and also ties into Career and Technical Education Month.

Project Based Learning (or PBL, as we like to call it) isn’t just a simple school project like you and I remember from our youth. There are no vinegar and baking soda volcanoes or shoebox dioramas here.

PBL is much bigger than that. It’s an approach to learning. It takes the lessons students learn in several different classes and ties them all together for one large project.

This graphic is a good illustration of how it works. It shows how a typical high school project touches each subject area with relevant context to the overall project:

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One of our key partners in this effort is the Buck Institute for Education (BIE). Take a look at how they view PBL and their role in its success here in Nashville:

We believe PBL helps schools produce graduates who are college and career ready, and possess the 4 C's: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity/innovation. These qualities will propel them into future success, no matter what they do after high school.

In the 21st century workplace, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In PBL, students not only understand content more deeply but also learn how to take responsibility and build confidence, solve problems, work collaboratively, communicate ideas, and be creative innovators.

PBL allows teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.

Current models of PBL are not like some past examples of “doing projects” in which student learning outcomes were not clear. More rigorous and effective models of PBL, such as those from BIE, have been refined and tested in recent years in a variety of settings, subjects, and grade levels.

For teachers, BIE offers professional development on how to design, assess, and manage projects that engage and motivate students. For schools, BIE helps bring coherence to PBL practices across grade levels and subject areas, and supports the creation of school-wide processes and structures to support PBL. For districts, BIE offers unrivaled service and expertise in creating and sustaining district-wide PBL initiatives.

PBL is key to the success of Career and Technical Education (CTE – yet another acronym, I know). As we celebrate CTE Month, take a moment with us to reflect on how much has changed in the world of education, and how students are – more than ever – getting lessons that are actually relevant to their lives and what they will do after graduation.