Project-based learning (PBL) can have an enormous impact on the education of low-achieving reading students. PBL is a student-centered teaching approach that enables students to learn by inquiring while collaborating in teams and creating projects to showcase their understanding of concepts. Students’ choice and involvement are critical components of the PBL method of instruction. In today’s academic field, teachers perceive PBL as presenting various positive impacts on low-achieving reading students. PBL increases reading comprehension, student engagement, and hands-on activities.
Teachers contend that project-based learning increases reading comprehension. PBL is a catalyst that transforms learning, thus helping low-achieving reading students to shift from asking “what?” questions to asking the “why? And how?” questions (Capraro, Capraro, & Morgan, 2013). Within the traditional class context, the focus of student learning is memorizing concepts to score high grades. However, teachers who use PBL contend that the method encourages inquiry, thereby placing students in the instructor’s shoes. Students apply authentic reasoning skills and practices, such as trial and error and experimentation, through real-life projects in the classroom. Besides learning factual concepts, students also learn to apply such concepts in real-life projects, which they design.
The transformation of learning is driven by the 5E framework that shuns the traditional teaching method that takes students along a fixed path of skills and concepts throughout the curriculum. In the PBL model, instruction is organized around five key stages: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate (Kavlu, 2015). The 5E framework pushes the students to be immersed in an experience, learn about the experience through reading texts and discussions, and gaining an in-depth understanding of the concept by elaborating it. Students elaborate on concepts, thereby pushing what they already know to gain more answers and knowledge. In PBL, students do more than just reciting correct answers (Capraro, Capraro, & Morgan, 2013). They create projects which are based on the 5E framework. For instance, students work in teams to solve real-world challenges, such as energy efficiency. These students study STEM concepts, such as doorways and windows on thermal simulation and apply these concepts into complex scenarios. Creating and working on real-life projects enables students to devise solutions to various life challenges.
Teachers aver that student engagement is one of the greatest benefits of project-based learning. A positive impact of PBL is that learners are intrinsically motivated in what they engage in (Kavlu, 2015). Students invest more effort into learning due to increased motivation. Because students like what they are doing, they end up spending more effort and time on it. The main reason for the increased student motivation is student choice. Students are free to choose their favorite resources in gaining knowledge on a particular topic. Students develop a sense of ownership in their learning process, and consequently, they become more intrinsically motivated to read and learn (Stix and Hrbek, 2006).). Students can make their own choices and decisions regarding the types of projects they require to demonstrate their comprehension of a particular reading text or study topic. PBL enables students to change their perceptions of themselves as learners, that is, from receiving knowledge to authoring knowledge (Kavlu, 2015). Notably, empowering students to make their own learning choices and decisions increases their motivation and engagement in the learning process because their choices depict their interests rather than the teacher’s interests. When students are in control of their learning, their engagement, and participation increase.
Students’ Hands-On Activities
Teachers understand that project-based learning increases students’ hands-on activities. Parallel to this, Bender (2012) investigated the concept of project-based learning, focusing on differentiating instruction for the 21st century. According to Bender’s study, the traditional teaching approach often involves the teacher standing in front of the class and delivering a lecture based on textbook concepts. The teacher reinforces the lecture by occasionally writing key factors on the board. After the lecture period, students are given tests based on the information taught. The traditional teaching approach is problematic because students focus on listening to lectures for hours, thus eventually becoming bored (Bender, 2012). When the human mind is bored, it tends to wander, and when it wanders, information is not taken in, and learning does not occur. Today, the most significant challenge confronting educators is transforming learning, from giving lectures to making it a constant adventure. Indeed, textbooks and lectures have not become obsolete; they still have a particular spot in the classroom. However, teachers must consider hands-on learning approaches, notably, the project-based learning method, to motivate students to learn more.
Students experience a significant uptake in the volume of information, which they retain by practicing what they are taught in the form of hands-on training. Krauss and Boss (2013). investigated various strategies for boosting students’ engagement. The researchers discovered that sitting and listening inventively but passively in a lecture-based classroom encourages students to retain only a tiny fraction of the presented material. However, allowing students to practice what they have been taught using real-life scenarios considerably increases the information retention percentage. Moreover, a hands-on learning environment increases students’ critical thinking. The reason is that students have the power to make critical learning decisions and choices regarding what to do to achieve the desired academic goals. They no longer have to sit in a lecture room and rely on attention and memory. The students retain the critical thinking skills gained instead of material memorized for exams, which is often forgotten after the tests. A hands-on learning environment equips students with critical skills, which are applicable in the real workplace environment.
However, educators must overcome various barriers to implement project-based learning in the classroom successfully. Given that PBL emphasizes student-driven in-depth investigations, the instructor may be uncomfortable in their new role as facilitators and accompanying loss of control. Moreover, nearly all PBL-based projects are rooted in collaborative and cooperative learning. Therefore, students who are uncomfortable working in groups may not negotiate compromise and manage conflicts arising from group work.
Teachers who use the PBL model contend that this teaching method enables students to demonstrate their learning by creating and working on real-life projects. PBL increases students’ motivation and engagement by giving them a voice and empowering them to make their own choices and decisions in the classroom. Consequently, students have more ownership over their learning process and gain a deeper understanding of what they are taught. Educators need to accord students some control over their classroom and be more involved in their learning. Doing so prompts students to be more motivated and engaged in what they learn. PBL is among the teaching methods that educators use to increase reading comprehension, student engagement, and hands-on activities on low-achieving reading students.
Bender, W. N. (2012). Project-based learning: Differentiating instruction for the 21st century. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=UL0-vVkipKwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Projectbased+learning:+Differentiating+instruction+for+the+21st+century&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiS1K6pvonsAhWQzIUKHbroArcQ6AEwAHoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=Projectbased%20learning%3A%20Differentiating%20instruction%20for%20the%2021st%20century&f=false
Stix, A. and Hrbek, F. (2006). Teachers as Classroom Coaches: How to Motivate Students Across the Content Areas. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=gA9RBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Implementing+ProjectBased+Learning&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjzpueuv4nsAhVPCxoKHUKvDXAQ6AEwCXoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=Implementing%20Project-Based%20Learning&f=false
Capraro, R. M., Capraro, M. M., & Morgan, J. R. (2013). STEM project-based learning: An integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) approach. Rotterdam: SensePublishers. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=PS5KAAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=STEM+projectbased+learning:+An+integrated+science,+technology,+engineering,+and+mathematics+(STEM)+approach&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiF2M2PwInsAhVDXxoKHUFaBhQQ6AEwAHoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=STEM%20project-based%20learning%3A%20An%20integrated%20science%2C%20technology%2C%20engineering%2C%20and%20mathematics%20(STEM)%20approach&f=false
Kavlu, A. (2015). The Effect of Project-Based Learning on Undergraduate EFL Students’ Reading Comprehension Ability. Journal of Education in Black Sea Region 1(1):39-44. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315582207_The_Effect_of_Project-Based_Learning_on_Undergraduate_EFL_Students’_Reading_Comprehension_Ability
Krauss, J. I., & Boss, S. K. (2013). Thinking Through Project-Based Learning: Guiding Deeper Inquiry. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=cNqRYP2jMvIC&pg=PA40&dq=How+to+boost+engagement+through+project+based+learning&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwih072xwInsAhUoy4UKHUbLAsMQ6AEwAXoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=How%20to%20boost%20engagement%20through%20project%20based%20learning&f=false