Why PBL and not just separate subjects?

Learning Landscape Friday, 20 Mar 2020

What is PBL?

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method where students learn by actively engaging in real-world and meaningful projects. PBL is an innovative approach that teaches many skills essential for success in the 21st century.

What do we do at Living Faith?

At Living Faith, instead of teaching subjects such as History, Geography, Science, Technology, Civics and Citizenship, Economics and Business in isolation, we teach these subjects together under the banner of Project-Based Learning (PBL). This is an integrated model where students combine multiple areas of learning and apply their skills towards a single project. Students drive their own learning through inquiry, as well as work collaboratively to research and create projects that reflect their knowledge. For example, the PBL unit for Year 5 in Semester 1 is ‘The Gold Rush’. As part of the project students learn about the history, geography and political implications that you would expect from this topic. However, in PBL this understanding is taken further and deeper. For example, students delve into inquiry and look at the challenges of the gold fields, such as lighting dark mineshafts before electricity. Science is incorporated into the project by looking at light reflection and refraction using mirrors. Students use this knowledge to build prototype lighting systems for mines. Skills from other subject areas are also incorporated for example, students use English writing genres to construct period specific newspaper articles and incorporate visual arts by artistically representing their understanding of gold fever and its impact on individual lives. PBL allows students’ understanding to go deeper and helps students build lasting connections.

Why is it that we have taken up this approach at Living Faith?

So, why do we take this approach at Living Faith? The main answer is engagement. Numerous studies have shown the crucial role engagement plays in moving knowledge into long term memory. PBL is a vehicle for engagement, where students can apply their learning to a bigger picture. Effective learning also involves recruiting multiple regions of the brain and this is what we aim to achieve by facilitating projects that draw from multiple subject areas and require higher-order thinking. Our PBL projects are designed to be as real-world as possible so that students can make important connections and see the value of what they are learning. PBL also helps students to develop important soft skills such as collaboration, problem solving, service and resilience.

Our success

We have seen significant growth in both student engagement and academic success since the implementation of PBL at Living Faith, particularly with students achieving above or well above the achievement standard. Our initial data indicates that since the implementation of PBL we have seen a 15% improvement in students who have achieved above or well above the achievement standard for PBL subjects (approximately 75 students across our school). An average of 88% of our students achieved at or above the achievement standard, significantly improving on results from the more traditional way we used to teach these subjects. PBL helps students make real-world connections and see the value and purpose of what they are learning. We look forward to showcasing our amazing PBL projects at our twice yearly Exhibition Evenings, the first of these being held on Wednesday, 17 June.

- Bianca Ravi, Director of Learning