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Project-based Learning : Toward a Successful Implementation of the Method

Compared to traditional classroom settings, Project-based Learning encourages teachers to use more pedagogical strategies and challenging thinking of science concepts with significant effort to collaborate with other co-workers. Hence, implementing Project-based Learning (referred to as PBL in this series) shows not only the robust efficacy of students' learning abilities and teachers' teaching practices, albeit also poses teachers with more challenges once they adopt this learning approach. Some of the flipside that merits the attention of researchers such as time management, classroom monitoring along with the implementation strategy will be discussed below.

Teacher's implementation of PBL

Research indicates that PBL: (a) has a positive effect on student content knowledge and the development of skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration; (b) benefits students by increasing their motivation and engagement; and (c) is challenging for teachers to implement (Brush & Saye, 2008; Krajcik, et al., 1998; Toolin, 2004). A teacher's ability to execute PBL in practice determines the effectiveness of such learning. Unlike traditional methods of teaching where teachers are considered the main source of information and dominant methods of teaching (Aldabbus, 2008), PBL provides valuable opportunities for students “to be engaged individually and in groups in formulating the inquiry questions, setting goals and planning for the process of conducting and designing the project” (Markham, 2003, p. 4). Teachers' implementation of PBL has been shown to greatly affect students' content understanding and development of skills (Han, Yalvac, Capraro & Capraro, 2015; Kokotsaki, Menzies & Wiggins, 2016). Han et al. (2015) report in their research about the implementation of PBL that in relation to STEM education, it has been shown that when PBL is implemented and instructed properly by teachers, students show engagement and better performance than those who are taught under a poor implementation of PBL. This signifies the role of the teachers who are seen as facilitators and advisers, providing students with adequate guidance and feedback. They give students more room to choose the way they approach the task which motivates the students to be more independent. Bell (2010) summarizes the indisputable advantages of PBL as it motivates students to be fully engaged in the process of learning and gives them a feeling of satisfaction.

Figure 1: Students are granted the autonomy to work on their own learning products and artifacts (Smith, E., 2020)

According to a case study on a three-year in-service teacher training on PBL by Mentzer, Czerniak, and Brooks (2017), teachers with little practice with PBL are more prone to resist the idea that students should self-determine their own concepts of the lesson. Besides the notion of poor delivery of PBL in the classroom – due to the lack of training and skills – some may not be capable of adopting new instructional strategies seamlessly. Ravitz (2003) posited that even when teachers show enthusiasm about the constructivist teaching approach after participating in professional development workshops, the reluctance of implementing PBL in the classroom could be recorded. Exploring the process of integrating PBL into their teaching practice during the first year of teaching, Buck (2010) and his research group state that there was recorded confusion regarding orientation and interpretation from the new teachers practicing PBL, ranging from the confusion of their roles in classroom to the doubt on the compatibility of PBL with their personal viewpoints on teaching and learning. A common goal for PBL has been to help students acquire deeper content knowledge and skills as well as the feeling of commitment and autonomy in their own learning (Han et al., 2015). According to Gubacs (2004), learners have the chance to self-assess their own end products, they can evaluate their classmates’ projects and give constructive feedback to each other. This would help them to become aware of their own strengths to be enhanced and weaknesses to be eradicated.

The notion that received constant importance over the barrier of the teacher during their implementation of PBL is the control-losing factor whether it may enhance the learning autonomy for their students but encumbers their control over students' learning attitude, time, and key learning topics. Thomas (2000) argues that some of the challenges that teachers face when approaching PBL are the conflict it brings to their deep-seated beliefs in their approach to teaching and the degree of balance needed between student control time and the teacher control over the activities. Grant and Hill (2006) discuss that the effort of sustaining the ownership of learning and allowing the students to develop their own pursuit of knowledge may meet the teachers' resistance as they often see this as giving up control of the class. Likewise, Market al. (1997) state that the teacher encounters hurdles in monitoring and scaffolding students' activities as they either grant them much freedom or too little modeling. Hence, some students were unable to come up with effective driving questions, keeping up motivated, and actively engaging in the process of conducting the project towards the end.

Figure 2: Students find it challenging to keep motivated and actively engaging over project time (Gerson, L., 2018)

In addition, teachers need to tolerate the ambiguity and flexibility of the dynamic environment created by the student-centered approach. This could be exemplified by a case study conducted by Hertzog (2007) to assist first-grade teachers to move from the traditional approach to implementing PBL in their classroom. The findings report the incapability of completing the required curriculum and the worrying facts on the matter of time needed to spend on projects from teachers' perspective. In the same volume, the efficacy of skills enhancement among students may pose a high degree of concern to teachers owing to the belief that the time may not be given adequately for the students to develop skills and the teacher may need to take full responsibility to teach students the skills before embarking in the project. Project-based Learning is inquiry-based learning in which students take participation in different activities to solve real-life problems, thus handing to the teachers the role of orchestration of all the features of Project-based Learning (Krajcik et al., 1994; Snyder & Snyder, 2008). To explain, the ability of the teacher to manage projects in a large classroom while maintaining the engagement of all students and the balance between the investigative aspect of the project and the interpretation is an example of the challenging factor in PBL for students. Teachers are reported to take the role of project managers in terms of monitoring and organizing a handful of factors. These factors can be overwhelming for teachers, thus posing more difficulty in organizing a PBL classroom.

The strategy of implementing Project-based Learning The research conducted by Cintang et al. (2018) pointed out five strategies for the successful implementation of PBL, following:

  1. The first strategy lies in the teacher's belief and commitment as their belief to implement Project-based Learning raises their awareness, intention, and responsibility. Hawanti (2014) suggests that many studies have been conducted to investigate teachers' knowledge and beliefs, thus confirming that knowledge and beliefs are influential factors in teachers' decision-making in the classroom. This is the basis for teachers to embark on PBL implementation. Besides the teachers' belief, the teacher's commitment to work on their duties becomes another influencing factor in the students' learning. Mart (2013) conveys the notion that commitment has a vital role in the inclusion of students' capabilities. Therefore, researchers lay the foundation for the successful implementation of Project-based Learning towards the belief and commitment of teachers in implementing this learning approach. Committed teachers recognize and endeavor to fulfill their responsibilities to their students. Rogers (2011) agree that the combination of teacher beliefs and experience gives them the strength to guide and strive to continue implementing Project-based Learning.

  2. The second strategy is combining the project with learning or combining two interconnected learnings into one. If the project is saved for the end of the theme and the time is limited, the teacher can combine the two related learnings.

  3. The third strategy is creating a semester program by calculating the effective week's details. After knowing the number of effective weeks, the teacher can estimate the time allocation that can be used to implement the project. When the teacher already knows the details of the effective weeks, the teacher may decide to use the second strategy.

  4. The fourth strategy is to modify the project listed in the teacher's book. Teachers can develop and tailor projects to the student environment. Teachers can replace tools and materials that are difficult to find or change the context of the project implementation. If the work procedures in the teacher book make it difficult for students, the teacher may arrange a work procedure tailored to the capabilities of both teachers and students. The most important thing in PBL is the process. The PBL can supply students with the skills required.

  5. Fifth, the last strategy is to choose an easy project and provide appropriate time to project needs. This is the easiest strategy to initiate a project implementation.

Based on the description, there are five strategies for teachers to implement Project-based Learning, which can already be overcome by the teacher. They are: 1) the teacher’s belief and commitment; 2) merging relevant projects or learning; 3) creating a semester program by calculating the effective weeks' details; 4) modifying the project listed in the teacher book; 5) choosing convenient projects and providing the time appropriate to project needs.

Figure 3: Teachers are suggested to provide a timeframe for the successful project implementation (Walker, T., 2016)

The succeeding factors

Hallermann et al. (2011) state that collaboration is an important instructional strategy, especially used in conjunction with PBL, and is an essential learning outcome for the twenty-first century, hence the first factors of succeeding factors are cooperation and cohesiveness. The success of PBL implementation is strongly influenced by the good operations among students, teachers, and even the community based on Citang et al. (2018)'s research. In the same volume, Cintang and his research group deem the factor of students' activeness as one of the key factors as the autonomy and independence of learning of students are the core value of PBL. Hence, this notion may put the role of the teachers in monitoring projects as one of the succeeding factors as teachers should consider their intensity of monitoring students' progress. The findings from Krajicik et al. (1994) add more notions to the successful implementation of PBL with the reinforcement of the extended Professional Development for teachers, sustaining classroom support (e.g. with technology and curriculum development), and the collaboration and commitment from the school personnel. Buck et al. (2011) support the opinion of Krajcik and add that the teacher's orientation and past personal experience should be taken as one of the succeeding criteria of PBL.

Technologies and Methods for Implementing PBL

PBL can be used apparently in any subject and at most levels. PBL is also a model for computer classroom activities that shifts away from short, isolated, teacher-centered lessons. Instead, it emphasizes learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary, student-centered, and integrated with real-world issues and practices. PBL, in which students work in teams to explore a question or create a project, helps maximize the student's ability to develop computer skills. According to Riel and Fulton (2001), it is necessary to create learning communities when given the task of teaching students new technologies. Riel and Fulton defined learning communities as groups of students, teachers, and outside sources that share knowledge, practices, and value of the knowledge. Harrison’s research (1999) looked at assumptions made by teachers about what students know and what they want to know. Harrison found that once students were given minimal instructions, they were soon exploring with other students and entering into conversations with each other about how to complete a task on the computer. Harrison also looked at the ways in which teachers create opportunities for students to learn. Students in the study appeared to be pleased to have had the opportunity to explore new things with peers.

Figure 4: PBL facilitates students to work in a team, explore a question or create a project and maximize their ability to develop computer skills (Futcher, C., 2016)

The integration of technology in PBL teaching is sometimes carried out through the development of special and dedicated tools for teaching, such as software programs intended to increase the efficiency of the division of students into groups (e.g., Henri, 2015), or special websites intended to facilitate the processes of collaboration and evaluation. However, most of the integration of technology in PBL teaching takes place through the use of existing technological tools.

a. Learning Management System (LMS)

A wide range of LMS are in use in PBL classrooms, such as Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas; however, most of these systems offer similar characteristics and the differences between them revolve around how different LMS use these characteristics and the support system for each product (Logan and Neumann, 2010). LMS provides an answer for the basic needs of a computerized work environment in PBL. They provide virtual space for the management of discussions between students, for coordinating the work, and for organizing sources (Tolsby, Nyvang and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, 2002), thereby encouraging collaboration between the students and contributing to the group work. Two of the LMS tools enable the maximization of the characteristics of PBL. For example, the lecturer can track the blogs (individual or group, private or public), offer feedback to the writers during the process, and monitor their activities and progress in the project. Another important tool is the wiki, which permits the joint creation of information and content pages. The wiki is particularly suited to PBL since it encourages the independent structuring of knowledge while developing such skills as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Wikis can be used in diverse ways and different degrees to promote learning and projects. For example, in the English language school at the University of Birmingham in England, the wiki was used to summarize the group discussions and create an archive of group activities (Page, 2008).

Figure 5: Wiki shows the potential of very versatile and efficient learning tools to promote learning and projects (Zeinstejer, R., 2018)

b. Mobile Technology

The term mobile technology is a catchall name for technological means, such as tablet computers, portable drives, and smartphones, that can be easily carried from one place to another and allow immediate access to information (Dearnley et al., 2009). Despite the enormous progress that has been made in the capabilities and accessibility of mobile technology, little use is made of these tools in academic teaching, including teaching using the PBL method. However, some studies (e.g., Utulu and Alonge, 2012) have shown that students who learn in PBL courses use mobile technology – and particularly smartphones – even though they have not been instructed to do so. For this reason, mobile technology expands and empowers the technological elements that integrate so successfully with PBL, it is recommended that this technology be used in a structured manner in order to advance and implement the method. Applications such as WhatsApp and Google Diary, which are convenient for students to use and be popular with them (Srba, 2010), allow the rapid exchange of messages and coordination between the members of groups. The mobility of the devices involved promotes the authenticity of learning, that is, its integration into the real world. Students can use the applications during their meetings with community partners while investigating places and collecting data from the field.


Most teachers and even experienced teachers will experience difficulties and challenges when trying to implement Project-based Learning. Despite the overall benefits for students, PBL is challenging for teachers to implement. Marx, et al., (1997) finds the following barriers to the successful implementation of PBL: (a) projects were time-consuming ; (b) classrooms felt disorderly ; (c) teachers could not control the flow of information; (d) it was difficult to balance giving them support. Experienced teachers have a strategy for implementing Project-based Learning on thematic learning. Teachers who do not have a strategy decide not to implement Project-based Learning. The strategy in the implementation of Project-based Learning consists of procedural strategies and process strategies. Procedural strategies are applied when designing Project-based Learning activities, while process strategies are applied at the time of the Project-based Learning implementation process on thematic learning. There are main strategies that teachers must have in order to implement Project-based Learning on thematic learning, namely teacher’s belief and teacher’s commitment. In addition, the integration of technologies is proven to bring more advantages to the classrooms with the availability of the tools such as LMS or mobile technology.


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1 Comment

Huxley Morris
Huxley Morris
Nov 23, 2023

Delving into the nuances of Project-based Learning was insightful. I vividly remember my struggles with academic projects during my student days. If you're facing similar challenges, I highly recommend Their service proved instrumental in crafting well-researched and high-quality research papers, ensuring success in my academic pursuits.

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