I've been skeptical about Project Based Learning (PBL) for a while, despite many people trying to sell me on it as being a step up from more traditional instruction. I like the concept, but I have too many reservations with veto-power to keep me from jumping in completely. These are my main issues:
- While PBL provides a rich environment for learning, it doesn't work as an effective means for assessment.
- The idea presumes that every mathematical topic has a problem that forms a solid context for a project. In the recent past, I've made a commitment to my students to not force a context on them if it doesn't actually fit, and to tell them outright when I've artificially created one. There are many rich applications for many topics, but this is not generally the case.
- I have never seen a project based rubric that I really like, even (and especially) ones that I've created myself. Something ends up being incentivized unintentionally, or students focus on the wrong elements despite my best efforts to prevent this. This is my fault though, not PBL.
All of that said, I'm really enjoying Zach Miller's ongoing series on combining Project Based Learning with elements of Problem Based Learning, which I also like, but also with reservations.
His posts are pushing my thinking a bit, and I'm liking how it's getting me to adjust some plans for this semester. Check out his blog when you can.