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In the Classroom

A New Way to Learn

It’s been a debated issue on whether or not certain teaching methods were getting through to students. Each student learns differently, but there had to be some way to teach the students collectively in a way that interested them. At Arvada High School in the year of 2016, board members decided to introduce a new way of learning to the students: Project-based learning.

Project-based learning or PBL is quickly becoming an effective and enjoyable method of learning among schools. PBLs are allowing students to develop a deeper understanding about a course, making for more success in colleges, careers, and civic life. Research shows that with the PBL method, students are more engaged with their own education and their better able to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios.

Compared to traditional learning methods, PBLs are a preferred learning style when it comes to long-term retention. Not only that but students also are able to use their creativity to solve complex problems; plus PBLs help students to understand their personal strengths and weaknesses and then utilize those skills so that every student fulfills a task or role within their group.

Project-Based Learning is a form of investigative learning that forces students to plan ahead about what kind of project they’ll be doing and how they’ll execute that plan. Teachers this year have been attempting to introduce this style into their own classrooms.

Creative Writing teacher Lindsey Hewett said, “Any kind of a project-based learning experience allows kids to feel like they have control over what they’re doing. There’s a lot of choice involved in a PBL”.

However it’s not all sunshine with PBLs. Some studies have proven that although a PBL experience can reinforce soft skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork, it can also create some conflict. In groups, it can be hard for everyone’s opinions and ideas about the project to be heard and that can create disagreements and tension.

Furthermore, lazy students are able to take advantage of the hardworking students and earn a grade for the work that their partner(s) did. In theory, teachers and students can learn to gain a lot from PBLs, but in practice PBLs can actually be a difficult task for teachers to organize and put together.

“It was very hard to organize on my end and it at some points for us to use our time well when there was a deadline that was kind of far in the future so students had a really hard time planning options and what they were supposed to do”, said Tabitha Campbell, Language Arts teacher.

Traditional learning has been the number one method across the country and now PBLs are taking the schools by storm, replacing the old with the new. There has been some debate on whether or not traditional learning is as effective as PBLs. Standardized exams would measure how much information a student has retained and those same exams show that traditional learning is effective when it comes to short-term retention.

Another name for PBLs is Problem-Based Learning. Meaning that students not only have to learn the material given to them, but they also have to figure out how they’re going to put it together into one main project and present it to their class. Although it may seem stressful, some students are finding it a nice break to the typical learning norm.

Junior Hannah Hutton said, “PBLs aren’t too problematic. I like being able to work at my own pace, so it’s nice not having to do something different every hexter.”

Afterwards, a student would most likely forget all that she/he had been taught that year. Each method has its ups and downs, therefore it’s not entirely clear on which method is better for teaching students. While some students are taking a liking to PBLs, others feel a little more rebellious to this new style.

“PBLs help some students but mostly it’s just tedious work that we have to do; it doesn’t really help the learning,” said sophomore Isabelle Bui.

Most teachers are used to the traditional style, however PBL learning is quickly becoming a favored method among both students and teachers alike. A healthy mix of both will most likely result in a better education for students and a more positive teaching experience for staff.

Deborah Bacon, an Honors Geometry teacher, said, “PBL learning isn’t strictly PBL only. So PBL learning kind of requires a little bit of traditional learning on some topics because it’s not natural for students to just discover them; so you actually have to be straightforward and define some things and show examples and then students can take that and apply it to their project.”

PBLs will continue to evolve in schools, equipping students for real world problems while incorporating some of the more traditional learning from the past. Arvada is just one of the few schools hoping to see this new technique go skybound.