Project-based Learning - Criticism


One concern is that PBL may be inappropriate in mathematics, the reason being that mathematics is primarily skill-based at the elementary level. Transforming the curriculum into an over-reaching project or series of projects does not allow for the necessary practice at particular mathematical skills. For instance, factoring quadratic equations in elementary algebra is something that requires extensive practice.

On the other hand, a teacher could integrate a PBL approach into the standard curriculum, helping the students see some broader contexts where abstract quadratic equations may apply. For example, Newton's law implies that tossed objects follow a parabolic path, and the roots of the corresponding equation correspond to the starting and ending locations of the object.

Another criticism of PBL is that measures that are stated as reasons for its success are not measurable using standard measurement tools, and rely on subjective rubrics for assessing results.

In PBL there is also a certain tendency for the creation of the final product of the project to become the driving force in classroom activities. When this happens, the project can lose its content focus and be ineffective in helping students learn certain concepts and skills. For example, academic projects that culminate in an artistic display or exhibit may place more emphasis on the artistic processes involved in creating the display than on the academic content that the project is meant to help students learn.

What's the Reality?

Although projects are the primary vehicle for instruction in project-based learning, there are no commonly shared criteria for what constitutes an acceptable project. Projects vary greatly in the depth of the questions explored, the clarity of the learning goals, the content and structure of the activity, and guidance from the teacher. The role of projects in the overall curriculum is also open to interpretation. Projects can guide the entire curriculum (more common in charter or other alternative schools) or simply comprise a few scattered hands-on activities. They might be multidisciplinary (more likely in elementary schools) or single-subject (commonly science and math). Some are whole class, others small group, and some individual.

Fully realized project-based teaching has never been widespread in mainstream public schooling. Teachers have little training or experience in the approach. Moreover, the time demands of projects, especially in today's context of standards, high-stakes tests, and pacing guides, understandably discourage many teachers from venturing into the kinds of collaborative student investigations that form the foundation of project-based learning. Yet there ARE public schools that practice this kind of pedagogy (see Falk, 2008).

Read more about this topic:  Project-based Learning

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