Project-based learning; pros and cons

Project-based learning and problem-based learning have gained popularity in recent years with educators worldwide. The reasons for this increase in popularity are fairly obvious, as project and problem-based learning are a form of applied, investigative learning and therefore help equip students to troubleshoot in the “real world”. The benefits are obvious; students learn how to problem-solve through the immediate application of their knowledge. Students can no longer legitimately ask “why do I need to know this?”; the applicability of the subject matter will become obvious throughout the duration of the project. Additionally, students typically work in groups, which often leads to new friendships and improved interpersonal skills. Troubleshooting acts to naturally engage students, as they access their creativity to solve complex problems. The group dynamic allows students to understand individual strengths and weaknesses , thus harnessing the full potential of the group by delegating specific tasks to students who excel in those areas.

But what are the cons? 

For one, teachers may struggle to fulfill the role of “facilitator”, especially if they are new to the concept of PBL. Additionally, it may be challenging to integrate all of the course material into a single, semester-long project, thus teachers may fail to cover some of the core material for a particular course. Additionally, the group dynamic may make it difficult to determine which students contributed the most to the project, thus complicating student assessment.  Team work can create a greater potential for conflict between students, as more interaction will occur in a PBL environment than in a traditional lecture environment. Additionally, lazy students may be able to take advantage of diligent students; thus it is important that the teacher plays a large role in the delegation of work at the group level.

The potential problems with PBL are mostly related to the group dynamic, and thus, I feel that most of them can be avoided IF the teacher puts in the time and effort to design a comprehensive and fair PBL course. What do you think?



Current Doctoral candidate at Virginia Tech in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. 2009 - B.S. in Biology at Christopher Newport University 2012 - M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology at Oklahoma State University 

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