PBL: Beneficial or a Waste of Resources?

By definition, or at least one of them, Project Based Learning is a tool or method used to help students gain knowledge by answering a complex problem or question. If we were to take the extended version of this simplified sentence, it would have a focus on “real-world authenticity.”

In truth, it’s a name that strikes dread in the hearts of many students, as it means busywork, and if you are the one that knows what’s happening, only one person does all the work.

“I’m always the one that does everything,” Catherine Klempa, Senior, said when asked why she hates PBL, “It’s never fair and I don’t gain anything from the project due to stress.”

For many students, that isn’t the only complaint they have when it comes to PBL. Some say it seems to be an afterthought, and that no memorable lesson ever comes from it. Others complain that despite the fact that it’s supposed to be fun, it almost never is.

Yet teachers and administration keep using PBL and Project Based Learning in general to teach students. The question then becomes what exactly they are trying to teach.

“All the teachers became hellbent on creating the PBL, and in theory it’s supposed to be student-driven,” said Mrs. Pavesich, the photography teacher and one of this year’s PBL organizers.

A couple of years ago, there was a largely successful PBL that occurred at the school in one specific program that was student driven. Unfortunately there were no students available to give personal accounts of this event, but according to external sources such as the teachers, it was the most productive PBL that the program had.

As for the name of the program, it goes unmentioned, but it does highlight one of the big factors of why this year’s PBL was a bigger success than the last one.

“I can’t really answer why it went from being program one year to not being program,” Mrs. Pavesich said when asked why the change occurred.

Digital Media had a focus on creativity because the PBL became student and program driven, and when asked about how their PBL went, many replied that they actually loved it.

“I got to go to Red Rock and draw and paint,” said Hope Mackey, Senior, “This is probably the best PBL so far.”

Because of this free reign given to the students and program teachers, Digital Media was able to create a project focused on selling art for the community. Different creative projects made during PBL will be sold by the Public Education Foundation, and 20% will go to charity.

“If someone wanted to do something,” Mrs. Pavesich said while showing the many works that people made, “we let them do it.”

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