Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
Project-based learning, especially when student-directed, is a compelling approach to learning. Students gain content knowledge, develop hard and soft skills, build character, and learn HOW to learn through the many phases of student-led PBL.
Students ultimately showcase evidence of these experiences and outcomes in a project-based learning portfolio. This blog post is about one project-based learning portfolio student example that reminds me of just how powerful student-led PBL can be. Let's take a look.
One of the first PBL steps my students take when designing their own project-based learning experiences is identifying desired outcomes. What do they wonder? What do they want to know? What skills do they hope to build? What personal qualities can they continue to strengthen, and through what means? How do they hope to make an impact?
These desired outcomes help shape the PBL design, and in doing so, encourage beautiful, quality work.
The project-based learning portfolio that I have referenced twice in this post is a Google Slides template. How is this project-based learning portfolio used? In a nutshell, my students, throughout the PBL process, add various pieces of evidence of learning.
They might add a video interview with one of their community experts. They could add a photo and a written reflection about the authentic presentation experience. The portfolio template that I use includes a variety of prompts to guide students through the process of building and managing their portfolios.
The learning portfolio template that my students use is also available to you for free! Make sure to grab that before moving on!
Portfolio Student Example to Inspire Quality and Impactful PBLs
It has been fascinating hearing stories from educators and homeschool parents about how they're using the PBL portfolio. I have received several samples of the learning portfolio in use, all of which are so fun to view!
But one particular portfolio student example was especially inspiring. This particular example stood out to me because of how it made me feel.
I felt when reading Luiz's portfolio, from Graded, the American School of São Paulo, not only how the PBL evolved, but how the student evolved along with it. I could see profound growth in the student over the process of one PBL simply by reading through his portfolio.
It was written by Luiz in a way that made me feel as if I knew him personally. I felt so proud of a learner that I'd never met!
I saw through the course of the slides how the entire experience played out, how the PBL evolved, and how Luiz was impacted. The portfolio made me, the bystander, feel as if I was there with the student throughout his entire experience.
Now that is powerful. And that is one of the many benefits of having your students keep learning portfolios.
Okay, so what was the project? What did Luiz do? What was so incredible about this portfolio student example and his journey in general?
Before getting into Luiz's project experience, I would like to recognize his teacher that shared his work with me. She played an integral role in Luiz's positive experience. Fabi is an educator at Graded, the American School of São Paulo, Brazil. She is a passionate teacher and an incredible human. I have loved following her work and PBL journey.
The project-based learning experience of Fabi’s middle school student, Luiz, started with an interest. He has a passion for the game of chess.
The project started with the goal of sharing what he knew about chess with his classmates. He would teach them how to play the game.
Over time and with encouragement from Fabi, the student modified the experience in a way that would make a greater impact and reach a more authentic audience.
He would go on to do free chess workshops for children on Saturdays at an NGO in a poor community near his school.
Luiz shares in his portfolio what an unexpected impact this experience had on him. Had he not pushed himself out of his comfort zone, gone beyond the walls of his classroom, and worked with those that needed what he had to offer, he wouldn't have had nearly the same impact nor the same personal experience.
He shares the following reflection in his learning portfolio:
"My project has gone through such an incredible change, and when I look back, I evolved along with it. It started small, as something I did not really care about, but it grew to make long lasting effect on my target audience.
I adapted and overcame all of my challenges, I saw it through and the final project made me very proud. My duty has been fulfilled and I could not be happier.
Working with children has never been my forte, but as I write this, I feel like a proud parent knowing that the children I taught will embrace the knowledge provided and will develop important skills in the future.
Knowing that they enjoyed their time learning and mastering chess makes me feel as if I were the happiest man alive." - Luiz
You can see from this portfolio student example that sharing and reflecting on project-based learning experiences, not only after the fact but throughout the process, is powerful.
Having your students build and manage project-based learning portfolios is one essential strategy for promoting profound, impactful, and quality learning experiences.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Save time and grab a free copy of my student-led project-based learning portfolio.
Assign a copy to each of your students, and as Fabi did, please feel free to share your students' experiences with me! I love to hear about their incredible PBL adventures.
Looking back at this one portfolio student example makes me feel so inspired. It reminds me of why I do this. I remember why student-led project-based learning IS the curriculum rather than a supplement to it.
I am reminded of why I have spent the past 15 years bragging about project-based learning and encouraging student-led learning across classrooms, homeschools, travel schools, and beyond.
Project-based learning, especially when directed and managed by the students themselves, lights a fire under students that they didn't even know was there, and that, my friend, is a special thing. Go get it!
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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.