Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
I get a lot of questions about self-directed project-based learning. I think the benefits of project-based learning hook people, but the execution or facilitation is daunting.
Self-directed project-based learning is when students design the project-based learning experience based on their interests, skills, challenges, goals, and more. It is customized and personalized PBL.
It is a little difficult to understand what that might look like in a classroom or a project-based homeschool. It is also a challenge, I can tell you from experience, guiding students in developing their own project ideas.
Here is the gist of the a self-directed project-based learning experience before I get too far into helping out with the PBL experience idea issue:
1) Students explore their interests, goals, skills, etc. My students use a digital personal learning plan to help with this phase of the process.
2) Students design a project-based learning experience, that includes all of the elements of PBL, around their personal interests, skills, challenges, etc.
3) Once they have designed their project they write up a plan, at which point, I review it and approve it. Once it's approved they can begin the experience.
4) I am a classroom teacher, so at any given time, I have up to 20 students conducting their own project-based learning experiences. Sometimes the topics are open-ended, sometimes they follow a theme or standards that I set in place.
5) During the period of of carrying out project experiences, I do checkins, students self-assess their work, they have their peers review their progress, etc.
6) Once they have wrapped up the experience they reflect and we have a one-on-one evaluation meeting.
7) My students add their experiences and learning outcomes to a project-based learning assessment portfolio (grab yours for free by clicking the link). This ends the experience and we start again.
The most common question that I get from educators trying to implement self-directed project-based learning is how to get students started. I have a variety of materials to help with this, including my self-directed project-based learning design workbook. That helps walk students through this process.
But I also, as the facilitator of these PBL experiences, guide them in the process. I often do this by simply sitting down with each student and walking them through developing a project idea, sort of like an interview. I guide, ask questions, scaffold, etc.
I created a video of an interview with a "student" that demonstrates these conversations. A "student" and I go over a project-based learning example. I initially created this video as part of my educational travel blog series, trying to teach educators how to develop self-directed project-based learning activities to go along with educational trips, but in creating this video, realized that it is essentially the same process for classroom educators. So check out that video below.
I also encourage you, before moving on, to check out some of these helpful self-directed project-based learning tools and some posts from my student-led PBL blog series:
Self-Directed Project-Based Learning Example
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Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.