What is Project Based Learning at QAE?
In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. While allowing for some degree of student "voice and choice," rigorous projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed to help students learn key academic content, practice 21st Century Skills collaboration, communication, critical thinking & creativity), and create high-quality, authentic products & presentations. For more information organizations like the Buck Institute for Education and Edutopia provide valuable resources, information and inspiration.
Our school was started in the fall of 2010 with a small group of dedicated educators, passionate about reaching all of our learners. During our “Envisioning” process with Bruce Dixon we were challenged to build a school that would truly engage all of our students in meaningful learning. That process included searching our own relationship with school and learning before seeking examples of schools and systems that seem to be achieving that goal of engagement. After much reading, discussion and reflection we found ourselves returning to Project Based Learning. Over the past four years as our staff has grown, we have dedicated ourselves to reading, training and experimentation with PBL. It is only now in our fourth year as a school that we confidently feel we can call ourselves a Project Based Learning school.
The staff at QAE sees PBL as a way to engage all students at their appropriate instruction level. Within each project's parameters students are asked to apply, analyze, and evaluate the skills they learn in the core subject areas. At the same time PBL allows students to "dig deeper" into their learning by asking questions that drive new connections and understandings not only for the individual student but the learning community as a whole.
One of the great aspects of PBL is that this type of learning mimics the real world. Throughout life we are more often asked to "solve problems" whether it be planning a child's birthday party, building a family budget within limited resources, or collaborating with a team to create a new system that will solve a problem half a world away. Within all of these situations, we as adults understand there is not just one answer or one way to solve a problem. Through Project Based Learning our students come up with those same understandings. Our students know that just because a project has been completed does not always mean that learning is finished. PBL helps our students develop perseverance, determination, problems solving skills and creativity in an engaging and meaningful way, preparing our alumni for the rest of the lives.