Recently, I tweeted an excerpt from an article written by Graham Brown-Martin, who founded Learning without Frontiers and published Learning Reimagined in 2015. Brown-Martin’s essential argument is that we need to understand 21st century challenges in order to know what skills are required, and he identifies a number of these challenges, including climate change, growing inequality, and an ageing population. His summation is “we have the option of educating for conflict & war or educating for peace & unity.”
Part of GameShift’s response to my tweet caught my attention. They asked “So what are 21st century skills?”
As I reflected on GameShift’s question, the word that came to mind was “adaptability.” We cannot presently identify all of tomorrow’s challenges. Global dynamics are in a constant state of flux, and we are more aware of this than any other point in history, due to the quantity of and rapidity with which information (whether true or false) is dispersed. To add to this sense of chaos, people are changing jobs 10-15 times during their lifetime.
Tony Wagner’s work, which examines education through the lens of skills business leaders are looking for, echoes my thinking, as “agility and adaptability” are listed among his Seven Survival Skills. How then do we develop adaptability in students? By offering them an authentic learning environment in which they create solutions to real-world problems. Project-based learning (PBL) is a methodology that provides such authentic, real-world learning. Exemplified in BIE’s model, it can be applied to virtually any problem or challenge.
Project-based learning (PBL) is a methodology that provides such authentic, real-world learning. Exemplified in BIE’s model, it can be applied to virtually any problem or challenge.
Just as in the real world, application of PBL begins with identifying and framing a complex problem or question, for which students are asked to create potential solutions. Integral to the methodology, they use design thinking to define, test and either discard or refine their designs in an iterative process.
We also see the 4Cs of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication woven into the structure of a PBL project. Solutions are often developed in a collaborative team. The team members are required to communicate with each other, often with experts on the subject, and with a public audience, to whom they present their products, their evidence of learning. Designing solutions to the complex problem or question requires critical thinking, in order to truly understand the challenge, and to research, analyze, and synthesize information needed to develop a solution. Likewise, creative thought, effort, and oftentimes failure are integral to the process of solution design and development.
Our schools and classrooms need to be as adaptable as our learners are going to need to be, or as Sam Seidel says, we need to “keep it real.” PBL is a winning way to get us there.