Friday, February 22, 2008

Projects for the Privileged? Let's Hope Not!

In the February issue of Educational Leadership, Jane David takes a look at the research behind project-based learning.

Within her overview of PBL pros and cons, one important point gets buried: "Because teachers tend to find this approach difficult to implement with low-performing students and may lack supporting technology, it is less likely to be embraced in high-poverty schools, which could increase rather than lessen existing inequalities."

Seems critical to challenge this perception so that real-world projects aren't seen as just another perk for students of privilege. I know there are many excellent examples of authentic projects that engage diverse learners (including students growing up in poverty). Marco Torres and his students' powerful multimedia projects come to mind. With access to digital tools and new approaches to learning, these students--growing up in one of the poorest areas of Los Angeles County--gain an outlet for their eloquent voices. Shouldn't that be a possibility for every student?


MaryJo Wagner, Ph.D. said...

Love Jane David's research. Proves kids learn with Project-based learning.

It's not about poverty. It's about attracting PBL teachers into these districts.


Anonymous said...


I've taught at an inner-city public school and Jane David's research - and the point you brought to the surface - is spot on. It is indeed more difficult to implement such a teaching/leearning model with less privileged students. But for me and for other teachers out there, that is part of the challenge of teaching.
Why is it we so often take an easier path? Whether it is implementing PBL or some other new, unfamiliar, unproven but promising, model its ease of implementation is a factor. I tried - and often failed - not to take into account the extra effort and hours it took to work with all my students no matter where they were academically at the time.
I didn't expect more or extra compensation or special consideration. I expected that my students be better at problem solving than they were before. I expected them to work hard, just as I did. I expected to teach them this process, and I expected it to be difficult. MaryJo is right, its not about poverty, its about teaching.

Robert Cole

Chris said...

Thank you for countering the view that students living in poverty won't excel with PBL. We just finished a huge Dinner Theatre project in "Canada's Worst Neighbourhood" where we saw English completion rates jump over 35% and credit counts rise 70%. And all because students were engaged in a large-scale project with a tangible endpoint that gave them choice. Read about it here:


Suzie Boss said...

Thanks for sharing this fabulous example. Sounds like a thought-provoking experience for both students and audience (love the "eat your words" chocolates--wow!). Great to see what happens when kids get fed up with others defining who they are and what their future holds. Keep up the good work!