PBL Tutorial – Using PBL to Build 21st Century Skills

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One of the primary goals of Project Based Learning in OST is to develop youths’ 21st Century Skills.  In 2006 a consortium surveyed more than 400 employers, asking what skills young workers needed to succeed in the workplace in the 21st Century.  The results, published in “Are They Really Ready to Work?” and found here, reveal that many young workers lack key skills, such as critical thinking, communication, and professionalism.  The Philadelphia Approach to PBL focuses on developing three 21st Century Skills in particular:

  1.  Critical Thinking:  Project Based Learning is based in inquiry.  Beginning a project with a strong Driving Question prompts youth to engage in a process of problem solving as they seek an answer to their question.  Youth gather evidence and make reflective, analytic decisions.  Remember to begin project planning with the Driving Question (not with ideas for activities) and the rest of the project will fall into place. 
  2. Collaboration:  Teamwork is essential in the workplace, but it can take practice.  Projects are the perfect opportunity for youth to practice teamwork.  Set ground rules for teams and consider using team contracts where youth determine what their roles, expectations, and consequences are.  Youth will hold one another accountable for their success. 
  3. Communication:  Youth need to effectively communicate both in writing and in speech.  Projects provide opportunities to do both.  Think beyond reports to creative ways to practice writing, such as brochures, web sites, and advertising campaigns.   The Culminating Event at the end of the project provides an opportunity for youth to practice public speaking as they share the results of their project. 

 Skill building opportunities are inherent to the PBL structure, but can also be practiced through small challenges throughout the project.  Activities such as the Marshmallow Challenge, give teams the opportunity to practice problem solving, collaboration, and communicating with one another. 

 As you begin to plan and implement your projects for the year, think about how you can better incorporate practice of these 21st Century Skills.

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