Constructivism in the Classroom: Project-based Learning

In the real world it is recognized that the ability to both define the problem and develop a solution (or range of possible solutions) is important”
(Savery, 2006, p. 16).

One application of Constructivist Theory in the classroom is Project-based Learning (PBL). This approach to classroom instruction is learner-centered and empowers learners to

  • conduct research
  • integrate theory and practice
  • apply knowledge/skills to a viable solution to a defined problem

Characteristics of effective and successful PBL include

  • students are responsible for their own learning
  • problem simulations must be ill-structured, allowing for free-inquiry
  • learning is integrated from a wide range of disciplines/subjects
  • collaboration is essential
  • self-directed learning must be applied back to the problem with reanalysis and resolution
  • closing analysis of learning from problem and a discussion of learned concepts/principle are essential
  • self and peer assessment should follow each problem and unit
  • activities must have real world value
  • assessments must measure student progress towards goals of PBL
  • must be the pedagogical basis of curriculum (not part of a didactic curriculum)

Obviously, PBL is not simple nor easy for the instructor to implement, nor for the students to be a part of. That is by design. Engaging and simple or easy rarely coexist.

There are some considerations when implementing PBL for students who have never experienced this form of instruction. Learners who are new to PBL require significant instructional scaffolding to support the development of

  • problem-solving skills
  • self-directed learning skills
  • teamwork/collaboration skills

One specific way I can envision implementing PBL in my classroom is through the construction and use of quad-coptor drones. I read about an all-in-one drone construction kit that was being aimed at classrooms, but I am having trouble finding the article now. Regardless, the components could all be purchased separately. Obviously, this would not be a cheap project, so would only be possible through a grant. Such grants exist, though.

This type of project is simply a more advanced version of the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits that can be found in many schools. These drones, though, could have the sort of real-world applications that Mindstorms robots never could. Furthermore, many of them are programmable in Javascript, which is one of the most widely used top-level languages in industry.

Actually, even the sourcing and purchasing of parts could be left up to students if an all-in-one kit could not be found. That would add an extra layer of student resourcefulness and research to such a project. Students could then come up with an application for their drone. Drones can carry sensors or other means of interacting with the world that students could utilize.

Such a project would require students to integrate physics, math, computer science, engineering, as well as research skills. Learning to build, program, and operate drones would be particularly relevant because quad-coptors and other UAVs are only going to become more commonplace.


Savery, J. R. (2006). Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1).





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