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Project-Based Learning: Benefiting Students and Their Communities

Posted by Becky Webster on Jan 16, 2018 4:00:00 PM

Navigating real-world problems is at the heart of project-based learning (PBL). What better way to bring the real world into the classroom than to bring the classroom into the real world? Not only is effective PBL bolstered by service learning and community partnerships, but the community at large can reap benefits that start with engaged young residents participating in community life.

Learning in Action

In PBL, the community is a resource. Getting outside of the classroom can also introduce students to new places and experiences. Whether taking a trip designed to reinforce classroom teaching or putting students in charge of planning an event, creating the opportunity to put learning into action is key.

Innovative programs like this one in a Texas school district combine PBL with community partnerships to create service learning opportunities. Students learn how to address community needs by working with local partners and, in the process, experience the real-world learning and problem-solving aspects of PBL in a tangible way. Evaluation and reflection is a staple of PBL and service learning projects allow students to see the impact created by their work. Connecting classroom work with something like service learning is a great way to begin the transition to a PBL curriculum and cultivate community involvement.

Translating improved academic performance to lifetime goals

In an earlier Workbench blog post we touched on research showing that PBL instruction can raise student achievement levels, including in low-performing and high-poverty schools. Empowering students is one of the biggest and far-reaching ways PBL benefits the surrounding community. 

An Indiana summer program employs some PBL elements to help students whose achievement levels have begun to fall behind their classmates. These efforts help kids envision their continued education and being successful in reaching goals like attending a university.

One way to grasp the value of schools in general to surrounding communities is to look at what happens to communities where schools are closed. Research from the Urban Institute indicates that the connection between schools, community development, and student success are linked—communities with open schools had higher property values, higher earnings, and higher college completion rates.

High performing schools can mean higher property values

How many times have you heard someone mention “good schools” as a reason for moving to or staying in a community? Successful PBL programming can have a positive impact on overall school district performance as it contributes to improved student achievement and that can be positive for property values, which tend to be higher in areas with high-performing schools. A quality school system is critically important to many people. The 2017 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report found that, among home buyers under the age of 51, “quality of school district” was one of the most influential factors for choosing a neighborhood.

Through PBL-driven service projects, students see how they can affect and improve their communities. Bringing the classroom into the community through service learning and other PBL projects can strengthen the sense of community. Higher home values can be one of the positive outcomes, but cultivating successful and engaged younger generations may be the most enduring benefit.


Free Download:  Roadmap to Project-Based Learning Success

Tags: Teachers, PBL

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