A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-term, project-based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-term, open-ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime…Our economy is in the midst of a grand shift toward the Hollywood model. More of us will see our working lives structured around short-term, project-based teams rather than long-term, open-ended jobs.
If you want a justification for Problem/Project Based Learning, there probably isn’t any better than this: increasingly our students are going to be doing problem/project based work in their professional lives. According to a new report from Accenture, one-third of US workers are already primarily temping or freelancing, and that number is expected to rise steeply in the next decade. More and more, permanent jobs that feature pensions and insurance and other traditional perks are falling away. The future of work is going to be characterized by constant change, constant inquiry, and constant learning self-organized by the “worker.”
You getting your students ready for that?
But it’s not enough to initiate PBL. Students have to work in flexible, fluid teams, collaborating and adapting as they find solutions and then tackle new problems. They need to be working on projects they care about, projects that have a real purpose in the world. Projects like the kids in the NuVu School are tackling in a “studio” (think “Hollywood”) process. (See this great overview from Susie Boss as well.) Problems and projects that are pursued within larger school cultures of inquiry and design.
More and more schools and classrooms and kids are doing PBL which is no doubt a good thing. But as always seems to be the case in schools, too much of it is still driven by curricular outcomes instead of student passions and real world relevance. If, as Dewey said, school should be real life, this modern definition of what work will look like for our kids better be a driving force behind our change discussions in schools.