Monday, September 21, 2009

What is Project Based Learning?

In my last post I set out on a quest to dissect Project Based Learning in the corporate world by starting some conversations and writing some blog posts. I believe that project based learning is ideally suited for adults in corporate training but sadly there is not much information available. I am hoping to shed light on some best practices that will improve the effectiveness of my project based lessons and hopefully help other instructional designers out there looking to get started with project based learning in a corporate organization. Part of the reason why there is not much information available may be that many instructional designers are creating project based lessons but they haven't put any label on it. I know I was already doing it but until I took a recent instructional design class, I did not realize there was an actual name for it. For this reason I'll start out my series of posts by covering what project based learning is and why there should be more of a focus placed on it in the corporate world.

So, what is project based learning? The textbook definition provided by the Buck Institute for Education in the "Project Based Learning Handbook" described standards focused project based learning with the quote below:
A systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.
In my opinion it's a flexible term that boils down to scaffolding a lesson so that learners construct their own solutions rather than being told what the solution is through formal instruction. In project based learning students use a variety of resources such as the internet and books or even better, resources used to perform their jobs such as company intranets, software, job aids, manuals, and wikis to construct their own solutions to the problem they are being asked to solve. Project based learning helps learners to gain a deeper understanding of the instructional objectives by engaging them in an interactive lesson requiring them to perform the objectives in a safe environment.

Project based learning's focus on the learner constructing their own solutions using available resources is what makes it so ideal for the corporate world. In the workplace, employees don't have their training facilitator there to give a lecture any time they come across a problem they don't know how to solve so it is important that employees are trained to use available resources to solve the problem on their own. Project based learning achieves what a lecture cannot by providing the opportunity for the learner to practice using the necessary resources so that when they do come across a problem they are prepared to solve it on their own.

By now, I am sure you are well aware of what project based learning is so let's take a look at an example. Hopefully sharing my example will inspire readers to describe or post a link to their examples as a comment to this post. For my recent instructional design class I designed a project based lesson called "Selling Sleep Disorder Relief" which required participants to research a sleep disorder then create a presentation of how to make a sales presentation to a customer with the sleep disorder. By designing a project based lesson for this topic participants were not only better able to retain the information but they were also required to practice applying this information in a realistic "fail safe" situation. Hopefully this example will help others understand what project based learning is and hopefully spur some ideas or best practices for using it in the corporate world. Do you have any examples or insight you are willing to share? I am by no means an expert and would love to hear what others have to say about project based learning in the corporate world. Please continue the conversation by posting a comment with examples or just your thoughts on project based learning.

  • Buck Institute for Education. (2003) Project Based Learning: A guide to standards focused project based learning. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Project Based Learning - Are you doing it?

Are you implementing Project Based Learning in a corporate environment? If so, I would like to hear about it. In an instructional design class I took over the summer we focused on "Project Based Learning." What I learned in this class inspired me to make it more of a priority in my work as an instructional designer in a corporate environment. I love the principles behind project based learning because they focus on the learner performing the instructional objectives being taught in a realistic situation. All fired up to do more with project based learning I set out on a Google search for examples of it being used in corporate environments. To my surprise there is a severe lack of information available about implementing it specifically in the corporate world. Just about every search result has to do with project based learning in K-12 education. So, I am going to try and help do something about that.

I am going to try and make a small contribution by writing a few posts about implementing "Project Based Learning" in a corporate environment. I'll cover important topics such as developing the "Driving Question" and "Artifact" of the project while citing specific examples of it being used in a corporate environment. After writing a few posts highlighting the key points and receiving your insight I'll put it all together into an article covering the project based learning design process from start to finish.

Before diving into project based learning in more detail I would love to hear about your experiences implementing it in a corporate environment. I was hoping to find insight with a Google search but as mentioned earlier there's really not much information available. I can't be the only one with something to say about it so help contribute by posting a comment with your thoughts or experiences with project based learning. I look forward to hearing your ideas and sharing them in upcoming blog posts.

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