Using Project Based Learning (PBL) is an important way teachers can easily build language scaffolds (see examples from Edutopia) into their teaching. PBL allows all students to find their talents and pursue a different way of learning. It works as a scaffold for students of all language abilities. First, the project gives context to the language being used in class. Second, it allows students to directly apply what they are learning. Third, it gives them a why for their learning. Fourth, according to Getting Smart, the idea of building schema is one way in which ELLs really benefit from PBL. Projects allow students to experience through creating and therefore pulling knowledge that they already have despite the language. And finally, as the students complete their work part by part, they are building the knowledge and skills they will need for the next step.
The approach naturally lends itself to differentiated instruction. By design, it is student-centered, student-driven, and gives space for teachers to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways. PBL can allow for effective differentiation in assessment as well as daily management and instruction.
Having students complete their learning in a step by step manner is a scaffold that can be transferred to other academic areas. Stanford University is conducting research and creating a curriculum for the use of PBL for Emerging Bilingual students. The end result of a PBL opportunity is often authentic action being taken by the students. PBL also gives students agency and voice and choice in their learning. All of which are important components of many curriculums including the IB.
Technology is easily integrated into PBL in authentic ways beyond using the laptops for research. Students are passionate about all sorts of things, many of which are technology related, from creating their own video games to figuring out how an electric car works. This allows them to look at the world around them in a scientific way.
In my classroom, I have not yet fully implemented project-based learning. I’ve learned that it is an especially great way for my classroom of ELLs to build and showcase their knowledge. I do have weekly Genius Hour where students inquire into something they are interested in. I also have a classroom MakerSpace to allow for tactile learning. Since there is a requirement to redesign a unit for course 5, I am thinking about adding a project-based approach to our upcoming unit on systems within a community. The students can identify and work to solve a real-world problem, perhaps starting at the school level. Technology can be authentically integrated into PBL through research and presentation skills. I think this plan would work well because our grade level team reflected at the end of the year that the students didn’t fully understand how systems are integrated with each other. Having the students work through the PBL process would help them truly understand systems and how they work and work together.