Many schools use project-based learning to encourage active exploration and demonstration of deeper knowledge through meaningful research and presentation. Project-based learning has been described as group-based student work to solve challenging, authentic, curriculum-based interdisciplinary problems. Students gather information from a variety of sources to synthesize, analyze, and develop important collaboration and reflection skills.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) recognizes the importance of project-based learning through a capstone assignment that serves as a celebration of learning at the end of each programme.
Vanessa Toney is the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) Coordinator at White Rock Christian Academy (WRCA) located near Vancouver, BC, Canada. She discusses the capstone assignment:
Each year, grade five students at WRCA participate in the Exhibition Project. It is an exciting opportunity for students to take part in an in-depth collaborative inquiry exploring multiple perspectives with real-world significance. Students are given guidance from classroom teachers, teacher mentors, parents, and community members as they explore a topic of personal interest. This capstone project is a highly student-directed inquiry, wherein they develop their own topic of interest, central idea, lines of inquiry, and key concepts. A wide range of topics are explored, such as: ocean pollution, sleep disorders, autism and animal therapy, gaming addictions, Alzheimer’s, and more.
WRCA’s core purpose is to “inspire and cultivate citizens of Godly character who transform their world for Christ”. Through the Exhibition experience, students are able to live out this mission by using their God-given talents and interests, and learning how to take action relating to their topics. The students conclude by sharing their exhibit with the wider school community so that everyone can celebrate their learning accomplishment.
Esther McIntyre is the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) Coordinator at Sekolah Pelita Harapan Christian school in Jakarta, Indonesia (Lippo Campus). She describes the MYP Personal Project:
Students explore an interest that is personally meaningful, and which has a positive real-life impact on themselves or their selected target community. Over the 7-month course of self-directed inquiry, the grade 10 students research, design, and create a personally meaningful and challenging learning goal. They write a report and record evidence demonstrating important life-long learning abilities. Students highlight skills such as critical thinking, research, self-management, and communication to successfully complete their project. The Personal Project is an opportunity for students to reflect on the impact of their project and recognize the evidence of their personal growth and development.
Sekolah Pelita Harapan Lippo Village proudly supports the MYP Personal Project Annual Exhibition every February, celebrating and showcasing the students’ learning. Each student has the support of a Personal Project Supervisor throughout their personal project. Recently, the school has provided a virtual exhibition enabling more visitors from around the world. Diverse and relevant topics are included: medicine, entertainment, digital applications, writing, social media, technology, cooking, sports, and more. Symbolically, this project marks the end of the MYP journey and the start of another chapter: the Diploma Program.
Jeff Weichel, Diploma Programme (DP) Coordinator at White Rock Christian Academy, describes the CAS Program (Creativity, Activity, and Service) as an opportunity for students to broaden their life experience beyond academic subjects:
The CAS Project is a collaborative, sustained experience of at least one month’s duration encompassing all “CAS Stages”: Investigation, Preparation, Action, and Reflection. In other words, it must be student-generated, planned, and executed. A popular choice is to run an interest club at school, like a business club, or to plan a significant event; two students recently planned an Easter event at their local church which required nearly twenty volunteers and served almost 400 people, while other students have organized Lunar New Year celebrations. Student reflections on these significant formative experiences are often insightful and reveal new facets of their character.
Another DP capstone project is the Extended Essay, a 4000-word research paper on a topic of student choice. Students select their subjects in the fall of Grade 11, work through the entire inquiry process, and finally submit the final copy of their paper upon their return to school in Grade 12. The Extended Essay promotes a depth of research uncommon at the high school level. While the task can feel overwhelming initially, the final product is a clear validation of student achievement. Current student topics include: Japonism’s influence on the impressionist work of Claude Monet (Art), analysis of Costco’s marketing strategy (Business), influences of IL-13 in mucus overproduction in asthma (Biology), and the explanatory power of social impact theory regarding crowd member behaviour during emergencies (Psychology). The Extended Essay benefits students by preparing them for university-level research and writing, but more importantly, by cultivating the mindset and commitment required to identify meaningful questions and pursue answers effectively.
 Project-Based Learning: a Primer By Gwen Solomon, January 15, 2003