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Real Problems for Real Learning

When students see how their school lessons actually apply to the world outside their classrooms, they become engaged to a degree that rote learning can never achieve. Many schools are encouraging this form of engagement through project based education models that help students see the applications of their lessons. Project based learning is a deliberate effort at increasing student engagement while continuing to meet target assessment standards. In order to engage students in this manner, it is necessary to teach them the process of finding and solving real-world problems.

Look for Problems in Your Community

Teachers need to model how to find and solve problems in both the school and the community. The more teachers identify and discuss these problems, the more students will begin to recognize them on their own. One great way to model this is by studying real students in the world who have made a difference. There are many examples of these real-world problem solvers, such as Alexandra Scott, who founded Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation -- a nonprofit that raises money for childhood cancer. Project based education helps students understand the value of learning by helping them see a higher purpose behind attending school. This can be transformative for students who previously agonized over the instructions of their parents and teachers.

Tie Work to Education Standards

As teachers help students discover and solve problems, they need to think about how these projects relate to education standards on report cards. It is important for teachers to avoid overloading themselves or their students while also challenging them with measurable instruction.

Let Students Craft and Solve Problems

Research shows that students perform better in school when they have a voice in their learning. This means that teachers are increasing student engagement by allowing their students to choose problems and solutions that interest them rather than relying on the teacher's parameters and rubrics. Teachers must cede some control in order to reap the full benefits of project based education.

When students learn experientially, they are more likely to retain the information. This means that effective project based education withholds some information, encouraging students to discover it themselves by curating and vetting their own exploration of the problem. This helps connect them to the lesson, and it encourages persistence, both of which help students grow into competent, responsible citizens.

Learn about UTA's online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction -- Science Education program.


Edutopia: Real-World Problem Solving: Project-Based Solutions

Education Week: Implementing Project-Based Learning in the 21st Century

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