Among the things I like about Project-Based Learning (PBL) is that it provides a context for learning. Most PBL advocates would say it should be to target real world problems. I think not necessarily. There is merit in doing work we value or interested in, which may not be a real world problem at all such as building virtual worlds or any fictional world, for that matter. I think it would be rather fun to create a project to solve problems of fictional characters such as Harry Potter in his own world – complete with magic and Hermione, of course.
Building on my previous post on defining PBL, projects and having either a proces or product focus to planning, this post is on PBL as a context for learning, and specifically by collaboration.
Collaboration can be loosely viewed as working together towards a common goal. One might very well ask, as @T_Milkins had, “Are we confusing collaboration with sharing and conversation?” I could add to that “group work” as well.
What does it really mean to collaborate?
In the IT systems development projects I’ve been involved in, project team members collaborate. That is, each one contributes towards achievement of the goal. Is there sharing? Yes. Is there conversation? Definitely. More importantly, each one contributes something that is uniquely their own contribution.
To effect collaboration in PBL, the teacher must ensure that each group member has a role to play that is uniquely their own and for which they are personally accountable.
This means that part of PBL planning is identifying roles and responsibilities which helps determine how many should be in a group. Ideally, the roles are aligned with the actual context the PBL is designed for. Here are some examples:
- IT projects (e.g. for IST and IPT): Project Leader, Analyst/Designer, Quality Assurance, Developer
- Drama projects: Director, Set and Costume Designers, Scriptwriter – more drama goodness from @karlao_dtn
- Movie projects: Director, Storyboarder/Scriptwriter, Editor, Actors
- Science projects (via @jybuell): Prediction Manager, Evidence Collector, Researcher, Skeptic (love this)
- General projects (via @rileylark and really via @jybuell): Facilitator, Task Manager, Resource or Materials Manager, Reporter/Recorder