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remember what they are learning about history, geography, and world cultures as they build collaboration, problem solving, communication, and technological skills.

Although projects have been a recognized part of instruction for nearly 100 years (Kirkpat- rick, 1918/2001), teachers have too frequently emphasized the engagement Project-Based Learning (PBL) can bring at the expense of the powerful learning such engagement engen- ders. Our purpose in this article is twofold: 1) distinguish “main course” PBL from the short duration and intellectually lightweight activities and projects common to many classrooms; and 2) argue that PBL is an essential tool for preparing students to reach 21st century educa- tional goals and succeed in the 21st century.

Projects vs. Project Based Learning

Most readers of this article have done projects as students and may now be doing these with their own classes. In a typical unit of instruction containing a project, a teacher covers a topic with a combination of lectures, textbook readings, worksheets, and perhaps short activities, video programs, and website visits. Then, students are given an assignment to do on their own at home: say, to create a poster about a disease, showing its effects on the body, how the body reacts, and how it is treated. These projects are displayed in the classroom but are not formally presented or discussed in detail. The unit culminates with a test emphasizing factual recall.

As Ron Berger, National Director of Program at Expeditionary Learning Schools, puts it, the teacher covers the main course of study in the usual way, and then a short project is served up for dessert. In 21st Century Project-Based Learning it is the project that is the main course – it contains and frames curriculum and instruction. Consider, in contrast to the “dessert proj- ects,” the rigor and depth of the Project-Based Learning described below.

In a math class at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco, students in teacher Stephanie Lundin’s “Greenbacks or Greenspace?” project use matrices and linear algebra to decide how to best use some vacant land in the city for either recreation or development. In the role of consultants to the mayor of San Francisco, student teams present their recom- mendation in the form of a formal written proposal, including an explanation of the math used to solve for the most cost-effective land allocation.

At Beachwood High School in Ohio, students in Greg Perry and Jason Ledonne’s Marketing class do research on successful marketing campaigns to understand the techniques that have been used to sell consumer products. The students then adapt these techniques to plan

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Virginia Educational Leadership

Vol. 7 No. 1

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