Wednesday, January 5, 2011

“Education or Entrepreneurship: Do You Have to Make a Choice?” or PBL vs PBL

The Read Write Start article "Education or Entrepreneurship: Do You Have to Make a Choice?" talks about raising the next generation of entrepreneurs. As a business teacher who has spent over ten years in the corporate world prior to teaching, this is a subject that greatly interests me. Prior to seeing this, I happened to read an article from Education World that compared project-based learning to problem-based learning. Later on, I read another article that placed project-based learning high on the creativity scale and problem-based learning low on the same scale. My first thoughts were why can’t we combine both project-based and problem-based learning - a process which emulates the business world?

From a business standpoint, we want our employees to be able to think creativity to solve the unending “problems” that arise in our daily work. These “problems” could range anywhere from handling a customer complaint, to building a part to fix a machine, to stopping the flow of oil from a damaged well. All situations involve being able to think through a problem, find some creative solutions and apply those solutions. Prior to being able to solve the problem, we need knowledge about the situation. We also need to be able to present our solution to somebody. Basically, we need to have the skills developed by project based learning which include:

  • Collecting and analyzing information
  • Conducting research using multiple sources of information
  • Applying a number of academic disciplines
  • Drawing on a broad range of knowledge and skills
  • Working on a project over an extended period of time
  • Designing and developing a product, presentation, or performance that can be used or viewed by others.
Additionally, we need skills developed by problem based learning which include:

  • Determining and stating what the problem is
  • Identifying the information needed and the resources to be used to find that information
  • Developing a possible solution;
  • Analyzing and refining the solution;
  • Presenting the final solution, orally and/or in writing.
(Above lists from Education World article)

Cameron Herold talks about nurturing entrepreneurial traits like tenacity, leadership, introspection, networking, and sales. When a student starts working on a project that involves solving a problem, they will encounter many difficulties (tenacity and introspection), have an invested interest in what they are doing (which helps develop leadership), need to collaborate with peers and professionals (networking) and need to present their final solution (sales). Their creativity in solving the problem may even lead to new products for the marketplace.
Most entrepreneurs start a business based around something they are interested in and have a passion for. By letting students choose their own projects, we are starting on this path. The research, problem solving, creative thinking, communication and innovation that is developed through project-based/problem-based learning is a start in getting our students headed down the road to entrepreneurship. (And don’t those sound like 21st Century Skills!)

In future posts I will talk about project ideas, some of which will involve problem solving, but all of which have real world applications.

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