Nearly every parent has had a child come home moaning about a group project gone awry. Instead of project-based learning (PBL), educators are now employing a more a problem-based approach that provides students with ways to collaborate on solutions for real-world issues.
Gary Garber, physics instructor at Boston University Academy, guides students away from the traditional scientific method approach by using different equipment so each experiment has to be done in different ways.
“There isn’t one method for doing science,” he said in a report for eSchool News. “One of the big highlights of the Next-Generation Science Standards is that there are a variety of science practices—modeling, trial and error, and so on. The source of good science discoveries is good innovation and creativity. We don’t need kids who have mastered the textbook. We need kids who are innovative and creative.”
The biggest issue with this new approach is getting teachers comfortable with the concept, even though the hands-on experiences can be invaluable to students. Making sure teachers have the proper training is the first step in building their confidence to use PBL tools and experiments.
“As a teacher, a test doesn’t necessarily show what a student has learned,” said Dan Whisler, a high school science teacher who has created projects on wind turbines and electric cars with his Sterling, KS, students. “Hands-on activities and the opportunity to give presentations to community groups do. That’s when students really start to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Wen you start sharing it with other people, that’s when you really learn it.”