Nine Reasons to Love Project-Based Learning in the Language Classroom

Juliana Tavares

I know we have been talking about PBL a lot, and there is a reason. The reason is that we are just in love with it and we want you to fall for it too. In order to help with the process, to make you want to try it or to entice you, if you prefer, here are some pretty great reasons to start applying the concepts of PBL to your classes the moment you go back to school after break:

PBL promotes student autonomy – because students are in charge of finding the answers to the questions they came up with. From the moment of the development of their inquiry to the search for information that will bring them the answers, all the work is done by the students while the teacher’s job is simply supervision and guidance.

PBL makes you study with your students – it is hard to tell where students are going after you present them with the driving question and a topic for the project. Therefore, you might need to catch up with them at one moment or another, for their knowledge about the topic might become greater than yours. That is why we need to get comfortable with the idea of learning new things with them and from them.

PBL goes hand in hand with the 21st century skills – problem solving, critical thinking, collaborating, creating, just to name a few: PBL provides teachers with the perfect framework to develop the 21st century skills within the students. Projects provide students with the opportunity to become real 21st century learners who will fit in this world full of changes that lies ahead.

PBL engages students in real life issues – ideally, students should come up with a solution, or a final product that is the result of their reflection, inquiry, and research. Designing a product that brings solutions to real life issues enables students to have a good perception of what sort of things they will have to tackle in the future, as well as a good perception of the reality around them.

PBL promotes meaningful practice of the target language – while some teachers find it very challenging to work with PBL in a foreign language, it can be an extremely positive experience when properly planned. Not only does PBL provide students with the real need to communicate in the target language, but it also brings meaningful practice on the content students need in order to develop their product and collaborate with one another as a team.

PBL involves the community – PBL should be about reflecting upon issues that are closely related to students’ communities. That is why it is ideal to always have an audience whenever students are presenting their findings and ideas. This audience should be made up of the school community, parents, and even decision makers or town representatives.

PBL calls for authentic materials – Again, PBL requires content that is out there in the world. Magazine and newspaper articles, TV news, interviews with people closely involved with the topic of the project, as well as field trips are great ways to help students collect and process information, not to mention that authentic input is a key factor in meaningful language practice.

PBL facilitates cross-curricular work – If you want to work more closely with your fellow teachers of other subjects, then PBL could not be a better way to go. Projects offer the opportunity to teachers of different areas to get together in order to show students how knowledge is not many things separately, but a glorious mix of different ideas that complement one another.

PBL benefits teacher development – working with PBL, as we have previously said, is not a simple task, nor does it involve concepts most of us a familiar with. PBL goes in opposite direction to whatever is old school, traditional, and teacher-centered. Therefore, it requires a shift in our educational views and a constant desire for change that can only be fueled by ongoing education and development.