Perhaps you have seen this image on the social media account of someone you know who is somehow involved in education:
This use of this image supposed to imply that in the traditional, public school model, that students all come out forced into one specific, unified shape, that traditional education removes a student’s ability to think, and that it makes no room for one’s identity. The user of this image also tends to tout endorse another method of pedagogy besides the traditional model.
I contend that this is also a viable image to use:
Before I go any further, allow me to share a couple things about myself:
- I am a New Tech Network Certified Teacher.
- I am an academic coach for a school and work with teachers on the principles of project-based learning.
With that said, by changing the label on the black box, this graphic is still accurate- either with a positive or negative connotation.
Depending on the facilitator (teacher), the rubric, and the project, it is just as possible in the PBL setting to take a bunch of rebels and try to pack them into Storm Trooper molds where they lose their individuality, excitement, and their ability to learn deeply.
But of course, depending on those same three aspects (facilitator, rubric, project), students can also learn how to shake their individual identities to become a member of a unified, collaborative group. These same learners can also learn how to think critically and apply approaches that work in a way that they become almost automatons and the practice is second nature.
The PBL antagonist could contend that the same interpretations I applied to the “Project-Based Learning” image could be applied to the “Traditional Education” model. And I would agree. Perhaps.
But what I see in the PBL school where I teach is students given the chance to approach projects from different angles and place their stamp of individuality on them. I see students actively involved in the messy work of learning how to play nice together in a learning community. I see mess, chaos, and I see learning where what underlies all the correct answers is the unifying idea or theme, not necessarily what words the students say and in which method. And when they figure these things out for themselves…
The Force is strong with those ones…
My apologies to Star Wars in the Classroom for the blatant knock-off of one of their works of art.