The value of project work

Filling the pail

I am not a supporter of project-based learning. If the goal is to learn academic content and skills then project-based learning is a poor way of achieving this. When compared to explicit teaching, a less guided and less structured approach is inefficient and leaves too many things to chance. With many items to attend to at once, it overloads working memory.

Moreover, project-based learning has the potential to widen achievement gaps. While some highly able students, often with parental support, will produce truly amazing results, students with fewer internal and external resources will tend to focus on things they know about, such as the quality of presentation or the application of trial and error rather than the relevant science. This is why, when advocates promote project-based learning, they tend to introduce you the two really smart kids who came up with a cure for malaria and not the many…

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