Finally, assessment of project-based
learning can also be a challenge. Because learners are constructing
artifacts that represent their learning, it is important to provide
feedback that is constructive and authentic to the objectives of the
assignment. Multiple-choice and true-false tests may be inappropriate
to judge the quality of learning that has occurred. Two suggested options
include portfolios and rubrics. Portfolios offer the opportunity to
employ multiple forms of assessment through different types of works
and allows the learner some choice over which items will be included
(Levstik & Barton, 2001). In addition, portfolios for extended periods
demonstrate progress to learners, parents and teachers. However, the
disadvantages to using portfolios are that they can be time consuming
to grade (Zvacek, 1999) and can be somewhat subjective.
Rubrics, on the other hand,
allow assessment to be more objective and reliable across learners.
When created prior to the project, teachers can communicate their expectations
for the project in the rubric, and the students are more aware of how
their work will be evaluated (Pickett & Dodge, 2001). Frederick
Drake and Lawrence McBride (1997) offer one option for evaluating history
and other social science projects. The rubric includes three constructs-knowledge,
reasoning and communication-with levels of proficiency for each. This
assessment tool is based on national history standards but could easily
be adapted to fit another domain such as literature. The WebQuest team's
Web site (http://edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest)
provides a template for developing a rubric to assess WebQuest tasks.
In addition to the template, this site hosts a variety of examples of
WebQuests, so it should be easy to view sample rubrics used by classroom
Reading about project-based learning is an important step in the implementation
process. However, there are other steps you can take to become even
better prepared. It may be helpful to review some examples of project-based
learning in action. Doing History (Levstik & Barton, 2001) is an
excellent primer for social science and interdisciplinary studies. Directed
at elementary and middle school students, numerous examples are included
and margin notes specify references and synopses. In addition, the article
by Drake and McBride (Drake & McBride, 1997) cited above includes
a few examples of project ideas for secondary social science students
along with the suggested rubric.
Project-based science can
best be understood through the eyes of a teacher first (Scott, 1994)
to understand how it has been implemented in the past. It may then be
helpful to read a more foundational piece "Enacting Project-based
Science" (Marx et al., 1997) that delineates the elements specific
to project-based science and how they should be incorporated into the
classroom. Also, the project-based science Web site (http://www.umich.edu/~pbsgroup/)
collects many of the schools' contacts who have participated in implementing
this pedagogy, but other information is sparse.
Becoming familiar with WebQuests is perhaps the easiest. Because the
technique is centered on web resources, most of the examples, templates
and support materials are also located on the web. The homepage for
also includes a significant number of examples from across the United
States covering many content areas. To begin, it may be helpful by finding
one that meets current curriculum needs and use it as a model for developing
an original WebQuest. It may also be helpful to follow up with classroom
textbooks and textbook companies. Many teachers' editions and publishing
company Web sites provide supplemental or connecting materials and suggestions
for extending teaching methods, such as using project-based learning
(see e.g., http://www.mhschool.com/teach/ss/adventuresintimeandplace/teachres/weblesson/
Project-based learning offers an engaging instructional method to make
learners active constructors of knowledge. Rooted in constructivism,
constructionism and cooperative/collaborative learning, project-based
learning has strong theoretical support for successful achievement.
Examples of project-based learning from the literature, such as project-based
science, disciplined inquiry and WebQuests, offer an opportunity to
compare and contrast how project-based learning has been integrated
into various classrooms and domains. Suggestions for implementing these
examples as well as other examples of project-based learning include:
begin slowly, prepare learners for using cooperative learning and use
constructive assessments. Finally, teachers interested in trying out
project-based learning in their classrooms should refer to articles,
literature and the Web sites mentioned above along with consulting their
textbook for additional ideas.
Michael M. Grant is a Ph.D.
candidate in Instructional Technology
at The University of Georgia and past president of their student
association. He has taught at Clemson University, SC, in the Department
of Graphic Communications, where he obtained his BS in Graphic Communications
and Masters of Industrial Education. His research interests include
learner differences, project-based learning and curriculum integration
of technology. He may be contacted at:
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30605
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The author would like to thank Janette R. Hill and Joan M. Davis for
their thoughtful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this