What is Project Based Learning?
Discover the learning science behind how you develop real skills for the workplace and that help to future-proof yourself via project based learning.
Humans have 2 major ways of learning: memorization with repetition, or engagement. Traditional learning methods use memorization and repetition. Project-based learning uses engagement and is much more fun!
Project-based learning is an approach to how a person learns that involves providing projects or problems that need to be solved, built, or created.
Learners use the problem as a launching point for researching new concepts, using trial and error, building solutions and learning as they build, evaluating the options available, making decisions about which solution to pursue, and more.
21st-century skills are skills and abilities that have been identified as important for success in the 21st-century, particularly compared to previous centuries. They include:
- Problem solving and critical thinking
- Creativity and innovation
- Collaboration and team work
- Ability to solve complex problems
Project-based learning at its core focuses on the learner, not on an instructor or a professor or a teacher delivering knowledge. Project-based learning and peer code reviews are part of active learning: learners must actively participate, engage, and respond. This is different from passive learning such as lectures, presentations, MOOCs, or watching online videos.
Active learning requires learners to analyze, evaluate, and create. The majority of our curriculum is made up of projects which are essentially problems in the form of “build a solution for XYZ.” As learners research, analyze, build, test, and fix, their engagement is through the roof compared with passive learning and the retention rate is closer to 90% (compared to passive learning at 5-10%).
At the core of both project-based learning and peer review is the skill of learning how to learn. Whether it’s investigating and researching relevant topics for a new project or trying to understand the structure and reasoning for a reviewee’s work, students learn how to learn.
The Project Based Learning Spectrum
Many other tech learning providers claim to do project-based learning, however, just because their learners do one or two projects, it does not mean that they are really doing project-based learning.
Above shows a spectrum of project-based learning: any form of knowledge transmission by a single source of truth (e.g. instructor or professor) takes away from the need to research, analyze, or evaluate, meaning learners don’t build critical thinking or problem-solving skills.
If you aren’t solving problems but are asking for answers from an instructor, then you are hindered in developing problem-solving skills and learning how to be resourceful.
One of the most important things you need to learn to future-proof yourself is how to learn: unless you’re doing real project-based learning, you will depend on someone else to provide answers for you.
How It Works
STEP 1: DISCOVER
Identify the problem: after starting the project, learners have to identify what the problems are that need to be solved.
STEP 2: RESEARCH
Tackling problems head on, students begin researching, learning, and investigating, using tools and resources available to them (such as Google).
STEP 3: EVALUATE
After processing information, they identify possible solutions to the problem and begin deciphering what’s important and what’s not in designing a solution. In light of constraints, projects requirements, and what a student considers important, they analyze and evaluate their options.
STEP 4: DECISION
Learners have to decide how to design and structure their code, which algorithms to use, how to structure their functions, and which to decide in the face of trade-offs.
STEP 5: BUILD
Once a solution option has been chosen, students build their solution in keeping with restrictions, norms, and best practices. Learners test and debug their software, preparing it for code review.
STEP 6: PEER REVIEW
Learners submit their projects for peer review, a structured code review system based on real world peer code reviews.
Project Progression and Difficulty
We spend a lot of time analyzing the complexity, difficulty, and cognitive challenge of each project. This ties deeply to learning science and our experience in learning design.
The vast majority of other providers do not understand or apply project-based learning science or cognitive development science to their curricula. At Qwasar, it is the very core of what we do and where we have years of experience.
Project order, size, complexity, and structure matters! Our programs are structured such that projects start with basic concepts then become increasingly more difficult and more complex. This reflects a learner’s zone of proximal development.
For a quick overview of some of the research on project-based learning, check out a publication from PBL Works.
Stephanie Bell, in the Clearing House Journal of Educational Strategies, Ideas, and Issues, published on PBL and 21st-century skill development.
Real World Projects
Check out this resource on some of the many benefits of using relevant projects for real world application.
Check out the platform that drives all of our project-based learning programs.
Discover how and why we use gamification in our programs and platform to drive learner motivation.
Learning from peers, peer code reviews, and working in groups is a core part of our programs here at Qwasar.