“PBL has been practiced in various ways in education and has become increasingly common with the advent of of digital technologies in recent years.” Yong Zhao, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial StudentsProject-Based Learning (PBL) is being touted as the 21st century answer to how we should be educating students and the perfect delivery-system for the Common Core State Standards. While those reasons for implementing PBL are legitimate, there are other reasons for implementing PBL as well. First of all, it has the potential to be a more engaging learning and teaching strategy. Secondly, it may more accurately mirror the world of work by engaging students in problem-solving. Thirdly, it can engage students in using technology to create and innovate. While these are additional reasons to implement PBL, we also need to be clearer regarding what we mean by PBL. There are multiple versions of PBL and those versions are not all equally effective in addressing these same reasons.
In his book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, Yong Zhao describes three different iterations of PBL, each with its own features and desired outcomes. He specifically advocates for the third model, Entrepreneurial Model of PBL, in order to educate students to effectively tackle the problems we face in the 21st century, but his PBL model framework is an interesting way to help us think about what we mean by PBL and what we want to accomplish with its implementation. Here’s Zhao’s three models:
|Academic Model of PBL|
|Mixed Model of PBL|
|Entrepreneurial Model of PBL|
It's clear by looking at Zhao’s three models of PBL, that the first two models are about teaching the prescribed curriculum, but only using PBL as the conduit for that teaching. The last model, the Entrepreneurial Model, is designed to foster an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set which is what Zhao’s book advocates and states is needed in the 21st century.
Whether you see Zhao’s “Entrepreneurial Model of PBL” or product-oriented learning as being feasible or not, it does offer some interesting ideas to ponder. As Zhao points out, “Entrepreneurship is about inventing a solution to an existing problem or creating a product or service to meet a need.” And if what we really need are creative and inventive solutions to the problems staring us in the face as 21st century citizens, then there’s certainly a great deal merit in this Entrepreneurial model of PBL.