Students have been given ‘projects’ as assessments for as long as I can remember. However, I have often questioned how these projects actually tie-in to the learning goals and whether they do anything for learning other than causing stress. They can also be real ‘monsters’ to grade, once all the projects come in.
The folks at the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) have developed a handy-dandy checklist to help ensure that projects are well-structured and meaningful (see below).
Project Based Learning (PBL) has always had much potential but, as is true of many things, must be used in moderation and with other learning strategies to help keep students engaged, reflective and exploratory learners. Nevertheless, when used properly PBL can help encourage life-long learning by giving students the opportunity to direct their own learning, take some risks and explore a topic more deeply than worksheets and textbook section review questions can.
In a related post, Jeff Dunn at Edudemic makes the point that the BIE checklist can also be useful for guiding the development of any learning activities. Point well taken! I would add that the checklist also fits well with Understanding by Design framework that utilizes Essential Questions and Big Ideas.