Project Based Learning – A new way to interact with knowledge

I remember my time at school as something very mechanical and often boring. I shamefully admit that what I’ve learned in chemistry and physics class is long gone from my brain and I couldn’t solve an equation even if my life depended on it. But with the evolution of teaching and better resources to give more access to information to students, I’ve stumbled upon a new way of facing what you learn.

In the late 1990s, the BIE Institute developed the concept of Project Based Learning – often referred to as PBL – and started broadcasting it to learning institutes and organizations.

Here’s how it works – Instead of telling students or new members of an organization to study a specific subject, submit them to a written test, evaluating their performance and then putting them to use the same knowledge they’ve just studied in fieldwork (which often generates a huge gap between what you’ve learned and what you will actually need to know to perform in the field), the new learners are put into a trial period where they are presented with a case study to which they have to develop a solution with the tools they are given, having the brainstorming and execution process to be decided between themselves. The results of a PBL initiative is, therefore, more practical to be applied in real life and the knowledge gathered is more unlikely to be forgotten in a long term period.
A very good use of PBL initiative is what I’ve witnessed through my four years of dedication to AIESEC. Essentially known as an organization that develops the leadership potential in young people through creating and managing exchange opportunities abroad, the first learning phase of their flow – known as Engagement with AIESEC – is the step where the leaders use PBL techniques to get the new members connected to the ideals and procedures to plan and achieve goals.

For example, AIESEC Malta (a beautiful island in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea) holds a period of two to three weeks right after the seminar for new members which they call Induction, and in this time the new members (under the supervision of a member with experience) are given the challenge of solving a real problem that the local committee is facing. The problem is explained to them and then they have the duty to come up with innovative ideas to solve it. By the end of the Induction period, the new members present the project they created to an audience and, if applicable to their reality, the project is accepted and they have the actual opportunity to make it happen.

Many other entities are also adhering to the PBL method, and it has proven to be a very efficient and dynamic way of learning and retaining new information. Extremely useful for teachers, students or working groups, PBL initiatives are definitely a must-do today!

What about you? Have you heard of it before? Please share your opinions in the comments below!


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