Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning is an approach that is designed to help students learn through interacting with and exploring real-world problems and issues that are relevant to them. Project-based approaches are often interdisciplinary and experiential, but projects may take place in any medium and can involve individual or group work. This type of learning is designed and structured to help students develop skills that may not be part of the project content. For example, a major semester-long project in which students design and build a game together teaches collaboration and project management as well as game development skills. At humanities research project that spans a semester can teach composition and critical thinking skills as well as content and research methods. A course built around project-based learning is not necessarily the same as a course whose main assessment is a major project, but there is some significant overlap, and if you are planning a major project, you may find the resources here helpful as well. Learn more about project-based learning from PBLWorks.

In this article we offer a sampling of resources to help you use project-based learning, including resources specific to Champlain. You can also make an appointment with a CLT staff member to discuss your ideas and how to implement them.

Collaborative Projects

Project-based learning is frequently collaborative, and many Champlain courses and programs encourage collaboration. Dr. Miriam Horne of the Core Division presents some ways to bring collaboration into in-person and hybrid learning environments in this article on Collaborative Classrooms, discussing both short-term informal strategies for getting started with collaboration, and longer-term strategies that can span a major project.

Scaffolding Projects and Assignments

Scaffolding — creating assignments that build toward a major goal — provides checkpoints and opportunities for feedback along the way during a project. It also allows you to focus the project on a particular aspect of the work for a short period of time, allowing students to master skills cumulatively. Scaffolded assignments are often lower-stakes individually, and may make a major project less intimidating. A simple example is a research project that requires students to turn in a topic, bibliography, outline, abstract, and final product spread over the course of six to eight weeks. Scaffolding is also common in labs that require increasingly complex skills, artistic productions, and projects that require students to collaborate on project management.

Sometimes, a scaffolded skill is not an obvious component of the project. It may be built into different components in increasingly complex ways. For example, in many courses, critical thinking is a major goal. But how can we help students achieve it? Scaffolding your course (using content and exercises that carefully build on each other, encouraging students to acquire and then apply skills) is one strategy for nurturing critical thinking. Miriam Horne (Core, CLT) explains and offers some different strategies for scaffolding (slideshow).

Click image for slides. Champlain login required.

Team Projects and Scaffolding

In this 2018 talk originally published as part of the CLT’s podcast series, Jonathan Ferguson discusses teams in game development. Runtime approximately one hour.

Experiential Learning

Champlain College is initiating a new push for incorporating experiential learning into our curriculum! Learn more in our introduction to experiential learning. Stay tuned for more training opportunities and Champlain-specific digital resources.

The Association for Experiential Education has compiled a list of resources on remote experiential education (K-12 and higher education). They have also made their webinar archive — including topics like experiential education online, sustaining conversation education remotely, augmented reality, and maintaining compassion towards self and students — available for non-members.

Place-Based Projects

Place-based education is a powerful complement to project-based learning. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that place-based learning can be conducted remotely as well as in-person. Christina Erickson, Service and Sustainability Learning Director, explores the possibilities.

View the slides here (Champlain login required).

Service Learning

Service learning is another approach that can go hand-in-hand with project-based learning. Christina Erickson discusses the major principles of service learning. These principles also apply to virtual service!

If you have trouble with the link above, the video is also available here (Champlain login required):

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