Project-based learning intrigues me. A number of schools I aim to visit in America use this method. I tried it out in the Chinese university where I teach and asked the students to work on their chosen project for three months and then exhibit their works at the end of the period. In another country, this won’t be unusual, but in China, it’s quite novel because grades are always based on written tests. The initial unfamiliarity with the concept proved challenging but the results were for the most part, stellar. I hope it’s not just the biased teacher in me speaking, proud of my students but objectively viewed, they accomplished no small feat.
On my first two semesters as an English writing teacher, the final exam was a book project. The students compiled all the articles that they wrote for class into a book that showcased their creativity and passion. Lizzie captured the spirit of the project in her introduction:
I have to thank my students for helping me find my own voice because in helping them find their voice, I was encouraged to rediscover mine. I also did my own Book Project, compiled a collection of articles and handed them out to close friends as means of catharsis.
On my third semester, I wanted to push the bar and go all out on PBL. There were times when I regretted taking on the gargantuan task with no administrative support but it paid off in the end when during the exhibit, you can see how many students came out of their shells and shone, bright stars that they are. It was an explosion of creativity and people marveled and gawked. Maybe there’s a bit of giddy exaggeration there but my two American friends who were guest judges can attest to the day’s powerful impact.
Hundreds of people went to the exhibit and the students were surprised and moved by the attendance and the attention their projects got. They answered questions thrown at them by oglers like professional subjects of media interviews. They went around checking out the “competition” and felt everyone had their unique piece to say.
For their final exam, each student wrote a reflection paper on the feedback that they got during the exhibit, their opinion about other projects and lessons learned throughout the three-month long process. I chose and photocopied some of the papers intending one day to sit down and write an article about the whole PBL experience in China. That day may be today or not. Perhaps I’ll prepare something more analytical and in-depth later but for now, I’ll let the students’ speak for themselves.
They are uploaded here on Slideshare:
To My Students:
I apologize that Slideshare is not available in China. I’m sure you would be happy and excited to see your reports, pictures and book covers included in the collection. If you have a VPN or know somebody who does, you can click on the links above. Thank you again for sharing your amazing talents and creativity. You don’t know what a privilege it has been for me to see you stretch beyond what you are usually capable.