Lessons learnt from project based learning

This year I embarked on a journey of project based learning with my year 7 class. The Year 7s have been doing mini projects in the first term. They have made infographics, videos and models. These mini projects allowed them to develop team work skills, time management skills and self-regulation skills.

At the moment, my Year 7s are doing their first long-term project. They are now working in teams to make a one-minute long video to explain an astronomical concept (the occurrence of day and night, seasons, tides, etc). They will enter the video into the 60 second science competition.  This project didn’t involve a simple point-and-shoot video. The project had four phases: (1) Research; (2) Pre-production (scripting and storyboarding); (3) Filming; and (4) Post production. Students were guided through the processes of scripting, storyboarding and using video editing software for post-production.

We have 4 hours of “project time” a week and most students are on task. Each team needs to state their goals and also say why they needed certain equipment (such as iPads and laptops) before they started.

So far most teams are progressing well:

  • One team is extremely well prepared. They have spent time and effort into their script and storyboard. They have organised props and are filming against a Chroma key background. They will soon be working with a teacher who specialised post production skills to edit their video. This group is doing really well.
  • One team is highly experienced in creating videos, especially animated videos. They now spend their dedicated project lessons doing highly technical things that they learn from watching video tutorials.
  •  One team is now up to their post –production phase. This group was a little less prepared than the other teams in their scripts and storyboarding, so they found it difficult to negotiate during filming as each person had a different idea of how it should be done. In the end (with some suggestions on how to negotiate and compromise), they were able to finish their filming.
  • One team is using GoAnimate to make their video. This team has also completed a fairly detailed script and storyboard so their filming process was also straight forward.

However, one team is not progressing as well. They have changed their scripts and storyboard multiple times and is the only group who haven’t started filming. This team works well in traditional classroom activities, but seems to be overwhelmed in project based learning. Even when they state their goals at the start of a session, the goals would often change.

So the lessons I have learnt so far is:

  • Have more checkpoints in the project phases – Even though I broke up the project into the stages of research, pre-production, filming and post production, I should’ve built in checkpoints within each phase. For example, students had to get feedback from another group about their storyboard after drawing three scenes. This would’ve helped students gain more regular feedback.
  • Have a half session checkpoint where each group needs to report on the progress in reaching their goal.
  • Have restrictions placed on the task – Next time I would not only specify the video is 60 seconds long, but only contains a certain number of scenes. This would’ve prevented students from going overboard and becoming overwhelmed with the process.
  • Have small sessions on how to work in a team, how to communicate effectively and how to negotiate and compromise.
  • Have each group nominate a project manager who is responsible for making sure the team stays on track.

I am just a beginner in project based learning and I am learning a lot of lessons. What lessons have you learnt from project based learning?

5 thoughts on “Lessons learnt from project based learning

  1. good reflective post, Alice.

    I definitely concur with your learning. Chunking tasks (and time) is good to help manage large projects. So is teaching collaborating skills. I think that on top of nominating a project manager, it is a good idea to define the roles and assign (or let kids negotiate) those as well.

    I don’t think PBL is an exact science and while there are good practices, they can be contextual – depending on the instructional core. I’ve written several PBL-related posts of which the most relevant here is the one on People, Process, Tools.


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