Research has indicated that many lessons require outcomes at the lower levels of cognition and those students cannot think independently of the teacher or go beyond the content being taught (Borich, 2010). One approach to help students facilitate a higher level of learning is project-based learning. Project-based learning has three ideas of the importance of learning the process not just the product, helping students set goals, and uses instructional groupings to draw out cooperation from all group members to complete the project (p. 351). Why is project-based learning so important to the development of students? Borich (2010) states that project-based learning plays a critical role in the development of intrinsic motivation to the learning task (p. 351). This is important because as increasing of age is occurring in schools today students are experiencing a decline in academic motivation (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007, p. 261). It is crucial to develop student’s intrinsic motivation in that the work being done is not because it is what the teacher wants, but because the students have a desire to learn and grow academically.
What makes up a good project then? Borich (2010) states several key components which good projects possess. These characteristics are: extended duration, requiring weeks to complete; link several disciplines; focus on the process as well as the product; and involves the teacher as a coach and utilizes small-group work (p. 351). Projects can also be more meaningful towards students when they present a real-world or authentic challenge; allow for student choice and control; be an achievable task in the time allotment; requires collaboration; and can produce a tangible product (p. 351).
One common project that many schools partake in is the egg drop challenge. On the surface this project may seem only like a fun activity, but this activity can not only be engaging as well as incorporate many aspects of a “good” project. Students can be encouraged to experiment with a number of different designs for the challenge. These designs are to be drawn and rationales explained in the group journals. Additionally, the challenge can be used as an analogy to make it an authentic task – the egg being precious cargo re-entering the atmosphere from space and must safely land on the earth’s surface. Also, this project can use several disciplines of science, math, and require writing aspects through the journaling. Most importantly, students will have to work together to design and build their ideas in the given time frame. This is just a brief explanation of how the popular and fun projects can be adapted into a meaningful lesson that will intrinsically motivate students.
Borich, G.D. (2010). Effective teaching methods: research-based practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Pressley, N., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guildford Press.