Project-based learning (PBL) is hands-on learning. Students learn content by creating projects. They use the inquiry process to question, plan, research, develop, improve, and present their work.
PBL in the Classroom
Some classes are naturally based on projects. In band or orchestra, for example, students learn to play instruments, practice pieces, improve their performance, and play concerts. In other words, they don't just learn about music and musicians; they create music and become musicians. In tech-ed classes, students use power tools and materials to build actual furniture and working engines. They aren't just learning about carpentry or machines. They are becoming carpenters and mechanics.
Project-based learning (PBL) allows students in any class to take that next step. In science classes, projects help students become scientists; in math, become engineers; in history, archeologists; in English, authors.
PBL and 21st Century Skills
Project-based learning requires students to think and act the way professionals do in the fields they are studying. Professionals have multiple projects at any given time. These projects require critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, evaluation, revision, and hard work. When professionals do a bad job with their projects, they suffer the consequences. When they do well, they succeed.
Students thrive in the same kind of environment. They don't want to do work that is just "practice" or "pretend." They want to do real work with real applications. Authenticity is the key. Project-based learning can provide that authentic experience.