What is Project Based Learning?
Learning in Stage 4 and 5 at Parramatta Marist High School is rigorous, relevant, authentic and student-centred. It is designed around a Project Based Learning (PBL) approach refined from the New Technology Network model. During years 9 and 10, students will learn syllabus content and skills and also be challenged to work in teams, meet deadlines, be able to present and justify their viewpoint (both in written and verbal format) and to think creatively.
There is never just one correct answer in the PBL approach, which encourages students to practice proposing a variety of credible responses to the questions. The hope is that when students leave the school they will take with them a passion for discovery through life-long learning.
Key Elements and Outcomes
In 2007, the school principal (Brother Patrick) visited Napa New Technology High School in the Napa Valley, San Francisco. The school was considered to be part of a small but crucial educational revolution in the United States which focused not solely on the content that students needed to acquire before they left high school, but also on the 21st Century skills that students would need in order to be successful in life. With guidance from an overseeing organization (New Technology Network) and support from the strong underlying model of Project Based Learning, the school was successful and had strong community and parental backing.
On his return, Brother Patrick spoke to staff about the changes he had witnessed in schools overseas and to consider the future direction of Parramatta Marist High School. Several staff intrigued by this PBL model attended a week-long conference in the United States and then on their return, began the task of planning for the implementation of this model at our school, for 2008. Since then, Brother Patrick and the CEO (Parramatta) have shown their belief in the model and their dedication to improving the learning of students by allowing further staff to train in the model, by redeveloping current learning spaces and also encouraging staff to strive and achieve their Train the Trainers Certification. This certification enables staff to provide teacher training in the PBL model, both at our school and overseas.
At Parramatta Marist High School we teach PBL across 6 KLA’s (key learning areas). Some of our PBL subjects are integrated courses, meaning that two subjects are joined together to form a single course the students attend, whilst other courses remain separate. In 2011, our PBL courses were:
- CathTECH (an integration of Catholic Studies and IST: Computing)
- Social Studies (an integration of English and HSIE)
To support the students and provide ample opportunities to work within different groups, most of our PBL courses, with the exception of Science, are taught in double-sized classrooms with 2 teachers from different subject specialty areas and approximately 60 students. Students also have access to anywhere, anytime learning that is supported by a high-speed wireless network, 1:1 student to Mac laptop ratios and a learning support system that is maintained and modified by the teaching staff. No longer does learning start and stop when the bell rings and being away is not an acceptable excuse for not completing your tasks or not supporting your group.
Outcomes of the Program
The project based learning program implemented at Parramatta Marist has a strong focus on the development of 21st century skills. Students are exposed to a range of activities that attempt to develop and enhance these skills through informal and formal assessment. The outcomes for students in this program include:
Critical Thinking – These skills focus on a student’s ability to think creatively and innovatively, analyze, synthesize, and apply information to new concepts.
Teamwork Skills – These skills focus on a student’s ability to cooperate with other students and manage relationships appropriately in order to achieve a common goal.
ICT Skills – These skills focus on a student’s ability to use a wide range of current technology with or without assistance.
Literacy Skills – These skills focus on a student’s ability to deconstruct an understanding of how to complete a task, focusing on reading and writing.
Presentation Skills – These skills focus on a student’s ability to present their projects to an audience in a confident manner using a wide range of resources to enhance the presentation.
Organisational Skills - These skills focus on a student’s ability to meet deadlines by planning projects and setting and achieving goals.
Download the Project Based Learning Booklet 540KB