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Project Based Learning in Mathematics Context

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Abstract

Project based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered instructional method which supports learning through engaging students in an investigation of a topic worth learning more about. District from traditional models, project based learning has been designed to create opportunities for students to explore, gather information and think critically. Students can reap many benefits from PBL strategy in terms of influencing goal orientation, increasing curiosity to search, augmenting engagement, promoting mastery of new knowledge, fostering problem-solving skills, developing critical thinking, enhancing peer learning and improving communication skills. This paper frames main criteria of PBL and focuses on the influence of PBL on student achievement in mathematics.
International Journal of Social Sciences & Educational Studies
ISSN 2520-0968 (Online), ISSN 2409-1294 (Print), March 2019, Vol.5, No.3
232
IJSSES
Project Based Learning in Mathematics Context
Hamdi Serin1
1 Ishik University, Faculty of Education, Erbil, Iraq
Correspondence: Hamdi Serin, Ishik University, Faculty of Education, Erbil, Iraq.
Email: hamdi.serin@ishik.edu.iq
Received: January 10, 2019 Accepted: February 24, 2019 Online Published: March 1, 2019
doi: 10.23918/ijsses.v5i3p232
Abstract: Project based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered instructional method which supports learning
through engaging students in an investigation of a topic worth learning more about. District from traditional
models, project based learning has been designed to create opportunities for students to explore, gather
information and think critically. Students can reap many benefits from PBL strategy in terms of influencing
goal orientation, increasing curiosity to search, augmenting engagement, promoting mastery of new
knowledge, fostering problem-solving skills, developing critical thinking, enhancing peer learning and
improving communication skills. This paper frames main criteria of PBL and focuses on the influence of
PBL on student achievement in mathematics.
Keywords: Project Based Learning, Self-Directed Learning, Motivation, Achievement, Mathematics
1. Introduction
PBL is a learner centered instructional method (Harris & Katz, 2001) for well over three decades. With
this in mind, PBL focuses on exploring authentic problems and performing well-designed tasks (Barron
& Darling-Hammond, 2008). A project is considered useful if students find it meaningful and they
undertake it for an educational purpose (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2012). PBL is a method which helps
students develop their skills and knowledge while investigating a challenge for a period of time.
Compared with traditional classroom projects, PBL allows learners to deal with self-directed, in-depth
investigations to seek for solutions to real world problems (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2012). In other
words, distinct from traditional model, students drive their own learning by means of exploration and
collaboration (Bell, 2010). Students work on a project by seeking answers to some questions under
teacher’s supervision. Students are often asked to summarize their discoveries through projects or
presentations without in-depth discussions.
Research has found that engaging with PBL increases student achievement (Kaldi, Filippatou, &
Govaris, 2011). Students develop their knowledge across a range of subjects through PBL. Moreover,
students benefit from PBL in terms of increase in motivation (Grant, 2002). When students deal with
real-world problems and seek solutions for them, they develop better attitudes towards learning. As
International Journal of Social Sciences & Educational Studies
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learners participate in group assignments in PBL, and present their discoveries to their teacher and peers,
learning turns into an enjoyable activity.
2. Literature Review
PBL strategy is useful to build an ethos of involvement in learning for the development of motivation,
knowledge and thinking skills (Schwartz, Mennin, & Webb, 2001). In addition to its benefits to the
enhancement of content knowledge, PBL also helps students with the development of some skills which
have become essential to achieve better at the present time. Creative thinking, communication and
problem solving are considered as significant skills people need for being successful not only at school
but also in community. Thomas (2002) emphasizes five criteria of PBL:
1) Incorporating projects as a part of the curriculum
2) Discovery of answers for problems and questions comes to the fore in PBL to allow students to
struggle with concepts.
3) Projects engage students in investigations
4) The focus of instruction in PBL shifts from teachers to students
5) Projects are realistic
PBL strategy is conducive to learning owing to its discernible advantages for integrating theory and
practice, creating a meaningful learning environment in which students apply skills and knowledge to
deal with real-world problems (Bender, 2012).
Loyens, Magda, and Rikers (2008, p. 413) framed five main goals of PBL:
1) construct an extensive and flexible knowledge base
2) become effective collaborators
3) develop effective problem-solving skills
4) become intrinsically motivated to learn
5) develop self-directed learning skills.
PBL is based on constructivist and sociocultural theories. While the role of teacher is to facilitate the
learning process, students endeavor to construct knowledge in a social context. Larmer and
Mergendoller (2012) put forward eight features of PBL:
1) Significant content
A topic which is considered by students significant in terms of their own lives and interests encourages
them to do a research for an extended period of time. When used effectively, PBL helps students learn
about significant amount of content from several subjects. It is not always easy for teachers to cover all
materials in the curriculum; for that reason, by means of assigning projects to students PBL helps
teachers meet curriculum expectations of students.
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2) A need to know
Unless students are motivated to learn, they find it meaningless to work on a project topic. With this in
mind, teachers need to spark students’ interest by making it clear why they need to know about the
relevant information. In traditional learning settings students need to know the information because it
will appear on the test. However; when students are aware that the information they need to know is
important to complete a project, their desire to know is powerfully activated.
3) A driving question
In order for students to perceive the purpose of a project, a driving question is crucial. Students are more
motivated if they understand what they will endeavor to achieve, what they will learn by undertaking the
project and why they need to learn about the topic. Open-ended, complex questions are useful to enable
students to understand the main point of the project.
4) Student voice and choice
In terms of allowing students to take responsibility for their own learning, it is important to give them
more voice and choice in the project. When students can choose their own topic, resources they will use
and even driving question, the project becomes more meaningful and enjoyable.
5) 21st century competencies
While working on a project students form teams, work together, exchange ideas, communicate with each
other, make presentations, receive questions, think and respond. It is true to say that; PBL has the
potential to build 21st century competencies such as communication, collaboration, problem solving,
critical thinking and creativity (Bell, 2010).
6) In-Depth inquiry
In in-depth inquiry students seek out answers to a driving question. It is a process in which students
endeavor to discover answers by means of research and draw conclusions.
7) Critique and revision
Students need ongoing opportunities which will lead them to high quality. For that reason, when students
critique one another’s work taking rubrics and other criteria into consideration, they create high quality
performances. Furthermore, teachers can bring in experts to provide feedback for the students to help
them produce better products.
8) Public audience
It is true to say that when students are given a chance to make a presentation to their teacher classmates,
they become more motivated and endeavor to produce better products.
3. PBL in Mathematics
The use of PBL in mathematics teaching is believed to be suitable (Savery, 2006) as it incites students to
actively participate in the learning process. PBL has the potential to facilitate learning in mathematics as
well. Engagement in learning is a key factor to increase achievement. When students work on projects in
mathematics and make them relevant to their own lives, they understand mathematical concepts and
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their achievement increases. Learning mathematics is no longer daunting by means of collaborative
learning, searching for solutions to real-world problems, discussing their discoveries which are important
aspects of PBL (Uyangor, 2012). The authentic nature of projects makes it possible for students to derive
their own learning through research, collaborative work and inquiry.
In a study carried out by Boaler (2002) mathematics achievement of students in Britain were compared.
While one of the secondary schools provided traditional instruction, the other used PBL. It was seen that
after three years the students in the PBL school made huge leaps in the development of mathematical
skills and three times as many students passed the national exam. Boaler concluded that the students in
the traditional instruction simply drew their attention to remembering the use of mathematical concepts;
however, the PBL students acquired more mathematical knowledge as PBL created a strong potential
foundation for learning through engaging the students in thought. In another study, Uyangor (2012)
found significant differences between pre- and post-test scores of students in mathematics after engaging
in PBL. Ali, Hukamdad, Akhter, and Khan (2010) in another study found that the introduction of PBL in
the mathematics classroom led to increased student achievement.
It is possible to say that students can reap many benefits from PBL strategy in terms of influencing goal
orientation, increasing curiosity to search, augmenting engagement, promoting mastery of new
knowledge, fostering problem-solving skills, developing critical thinking, enhancing peer learning and
improving communication skills. These are the significant characteristics which enable students make
noticeable gains in mathematics learning.
4. Conclusion
Rather than traditional instruction, the implementation of PBL in the learning process allows students to
construct knowledge in a social context. The core idea in PBL is providing students opportunities to
investigate real world problems which will enable them to gain new knowledge. Benefits of PBF have
been identified as increase in student engagement, the provision of more opportunities for the promotion
of abilities in terms of critical thinking, problem solving and independent working.
References
Ali, R., Hukamdad, Akhter, A., & Khan, A. (2010). Effect of using problem solving method in teaching
mathematics on the achievement of mathematics students. Asian Social Science, 6, 67-72.
Barron B., & Darling-Hammond, L., (2008). Teaching for meaningful learning. In D.H. Hammond, B.
Barron, P. Pearson, A. Schoenfeld, E. Stage, T. Zimmerman, G. Cervetti, & J. Tilson, Powerful
learning: What we know about teaching for Understanding, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bell, S. (2010). Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. The Clearing House, 83,
39-43.
Bender, W. N. (2012). Project-based learning: Differentiating instruction for the 21st Century.
Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.
Boaler, J. (2002). Learning from teaching: Exploring the relationship between reform curriculum and
equity. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 33(4), 239-258.
Grant, M. M. (2002). Getting a grip on project-based learning: Theory, cases and recommendations.
Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal 5(1).
Harris, J. H., & Katz, L. G. (2001). Young investigators: The project approach in early years.
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Kaldi, S., Filippatou, D., & Govaris, C. (2011). Project-based learning in primary schools: Effects on
pupils’ learning and attitudes. International Journal of Primary, Elementary, and Early Years
Education, 39(1), 3-13.
Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2010). Main course, not dessert: How are students reaching 21st
century goals with 21st century project based learning?
Loyens, S. M., Magda, J., & Rikers, R. (2008). Self-directed learning in problem-based learning and its
relationships with self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 20, 411-427. doi:
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Schwartz, P., Mennin, S., & Webb, G. (Eds). (2001). Problem-based learning: Case studies, experience
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Uyangor, S. (2012). The effects of project-based learning on teaching of polygon and plane geometry
unit. New Educational Review, 29(3), 212-223.
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Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an innovative approach to learning that teaches a multitude of strategies critical for success in the twenty-first century. Students drive their own learning through inquiry, as well as work collaboratively to research and create projects that reflect their knowledge. From gleaning new, viable technology skills, to becoming proficient communicators and advanced problem solvers, students benefit from this approach to instruction.
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The case studies in this book consider many of the most important issues perceived and experienced by people who are using or developing problem-based learning (PBL). The book focuses on politics, administration, resources, the roles of teachers, and the effects of PBL on students. The chapters are: (1) "Come and See the Real Thing" (David Prideaux, Bren Gannon, Elizabeth Farmer, Sue Runciman, and Isobel Rolfe); (2) "No Money Where Your Mouth Is" (Nina Felice Schor); (3) "Into the Lion's Den" (Amy Blue); (4) "Lost in the Melee" (D. Christopher Clark); (5) "But What If They Leave with Misinformation?" (Gwendie Camp); (6) "Mixed Models and Mixed Messages" (Marilyn S. Lantz and John F. Chaves); (7) "Overcoming Obstacles" (Ann Sefton); (8) "Forward from the Retreat" (Peter Schwarz); (9) "Too Little, Too Late?" (Carol-Ann Courneya); (10) "Not More PBL" (Elizabeth Farmer); (11) "Why Do They Ignore It?" (Marlene Linberg and Gordon Greene); (12) "Redesigning PBL: Resolving the Integration Problem" (Barry Maitland and Rob Cowdroy); (13) "Why Does the Department Have Professors If They Don't Teach?" (Barbara Miflin and David Price); (14) "Faculty Development Workshops: A 'Challenge' of Problem-Based Learning?" (Deborah E. Allen, Barbara J, Duch, and Susan E. Groh); (15) "The Students Did That?" (David Taylor); (16) "Mature Students?" (Emyr W. Benbow and Ray F.T. McMahon); (17) "To Admit or Not To Admit? That Is the Question..." (Chuck Shuler and Alan Fincham); (18) "Why Aren't They Working? (Diana Dolans, Ineke Wolfhagen, and Cees van der Vleuten); (19) "I Don't Want To Be a Groupie" (David M. Kaufman and Karen V Mann); (20) "Reflecting on Assessment" (Jan Lovie-Kitchin); (21) "Assessable Damage" (Alex Forrest and Laurie Walsh); and (22) "They Just Don't Pull Their Weight" (Don Woods). Each chapter contains references. (SLD)
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This study focuses upon the effectiveness of project-based learning on primary school pupils regarding their content knowledge and attitudes towards self-efficacy, task value, group work, teaching methods applied and peers from diverse ethnic backgrounds. A cross-curricular project was implemented within the curriculum area of environmental studies under the title of ‘sea animals’. The methodology applied in this study was the quasi-experimental research design. The findings of the present study support the view that pupils can gain benefits through project-based learning in obtaining content knowledge and group work skills and that they became less favourable to traditional teaching versus experiential learning. Motivation (self-efficacy and task value in terms of environmental studies) and developing positive attitudes towards peers from a different ethnic background were changed in moderate levels after the project.
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Some researchers have expressed doubts about the potential of reform-oriented curricula to promote equity. This article considers this important issue and argues that investigations into equitable teaching must pay attention to the particular practices of teaching and learning that are enacted in classrooms. Data are presented from two studies in which middle school and high school teachers using reform-oriented mathematics curricula achieved a reduction in linguistic, ethnic, and class inequalities in their schools. The teaching and learning practices that these teachers employed were central to the attainment of equality, suggesting that it is critical that relational analyses of equity go beyond the curriculum to include the teacher and their teaching.
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Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional approach that has been used successfully for over 30 years and continues to gain acceptance in multiple disciplines. It is an instructional (and curricular) learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem. This overview presents a brief history, followed by a discussion of the similarities and differences between PBL and other experiential approaches to teaching, and identifies some of the challenges that lie ahead for PBL.
Project-based learning: Differentiating instruction for the 21st Century
  • W N Bender
Bender, W. N. (2012). Project-based learning: Differentiating instruction for the 21st Century. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.