Project-based Learning (n): An instructional practice that engages students in real world problems, fosters deeper learning in content areas, and gives students ownership over their own learning process.
The Purpose of School
It is said that 65% of children who enter school now will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. So what does this mean for educational systems? We can no longer teach students the way we have in the past, focusing on the passing of knowledge from the teacher to the student. If we truly want to prepare students to solve the problems of the future, then we need to give them real problems to solve. In project-based learning, students dive into real-world problems over an extended period of time, which requires them to apply their knowledge instead of just repeating it onto a test. Students are required to collaborate with each other, use critical thinking skills, and think creatively.
A core philosophy at Khan Lab School is that content does not exist on islands. In a traditional high school, the Math teacher and Science teacher are in separate wings and never have a meeting together. The Art teacher and the English teacher don’t know each others’ names and don’t even eat lunch at the same time. This is a lost opportunity for collaboration and meaningful work that crosses across single subject disciplines. When we break up student learning strictly by subject area, we prevent applications for student learning that allow for deeper understanding of all content areas.
At KLS, all projects are designed with an interdisciplinary approach in mind. This goes beyond doing some math word problems based in science. Instead, students learn more deeply when subject areas are intertwined. This could be a project in science surrounding the chemistry of wildfires, where students in math are looking at historical data on damages and costs and creating equations to extrapolate future loss, and in computer science are running simulations by modifying environmental factors to predict behaviors. In this case, students are doing the real work that scientists, mathematicians, or data analysts would be doing. Furthermore, the work done in one class not only supports other classes but deepens student understanding.
At KLS, we see teachers as directors of learning, not the carriers of knowledge. Teaching and learning is a dance between the teachers and students as they co-create knowledge. Using an inquiry-based learning approach, students drive the learning and projects, ask questions, and dive into their curiosities. With this approach, we give students agency over their own learning, motivating them to want to learn more. Each project ends with a student Exhibition where students present their final work and engage their audience in the learning process throughout the project.
Director of Project-Based Learning