21st Century Education

English: An awesome PBL group.

English: An awesome PBL group. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is a logical sequel to a previous one I wrote, entitled “Outdated Education”.   The world is changing so rapidly that we need to change the way we teach our students in order to prepare them properly for today’s marketplace.

Textbook and notes-based memorization in teacher-centred classrooms is less useful than it was in the past.  Examinations that test knowledge are now inadequate because everyone today has instant access to knowledge through modern technology.  The teacher is no longer the only provider of knowledge.  The key today is what we do with the knowledge.

Project-based Learning (PBL) and Problem-based Learning, present decided advantages  in teaching 21st century thinking skills.  In Problem-based Learning the teacher introduces problems or challenges which students have to solve, whereas in Project-based Learning (PBL) students must answer difficult questions and complete complex tasks by presenting or creating  specific products.  Teachers carefully create real-world problems through the design of the questions and tasks.  We will focus on PBL in this post although it is similar to Problem-based learning.

Many studies and initiatives, including those undertaken by the West Virginia Department of Education (2008), show that PBL is an effective teaching methodology.  Many teachers have received professional training in the implementation and use of PBL.

In PBL classrooms the focus is on Ken Kay’s “4 Cs” which are critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.  Students work in pairs and groups most of the time to explore real-world problems and challenges.  This is a constructivist approach to learning in which students learn by doing and are responsible for their own progress.  It is student-centred and as Markham (2011) asserts: “PBL integrates knowing and doing.”  Teachers function as facilitators and guides.  They promote discussion and help students to ask themselves the right questions and reflect on what they are doing.

Through PBL students develop their reasoning and higher order thinking skills such as analysis, application, synthesis and evaluation.  They retain content longer and enjoy their participation in the construction of knowledge.

Obviously, PBL demands different assessment modalities.  Included among them are presentations, exhibitions, performances, portfolios and reports.

If we are willing to adopt a significant level of PBL, train our teachers in this methodology and adjust our assessment of learning, our students will be better prepared for life in the 21st century.  They will have more self-confidence and will be better team players as well.  However, the greatest gains will be in their ability to think critically, make informed decisions and solve problems.




3 thoughts on “21st Century Education

  1. Pingback: I Do that PBL, They Learn Incredible | BucknerClass

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