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Educational Reform through Project-based Learning (PBL)

Ju-Ho Lee and Booyuel Kim

No 66, KDI Focus from Korea Development Institute (KDI)

Abstract: Project-based learning (PBL) is gaining increasing prominence as an educational tool for enhancing students' key future competences - communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, referred to as the 4Cs. However, the proportion of PBL classes in Korean schools is among the lowest in the world. Nevertheless, results from a pilot PBL module undertaken by two middle schools in Daegu during a free semester show that students' communication and collaboration skills improved. To boost this momentum, Korea must now establish a mid- to long-term plan aimed at reforming school curriculums and admission systems to fully optimize the use of PBL while seeking short-term measures to encourage teachers to pursue innovative teaching methods. - What should we do to help our future generations develop key competencies in preparation for the rapid changes in technology? - Vital future skills are communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity - the 4Cs or 21st century skills. - PBL is an educational pedagogy in which students are naturally led to learning through self-directed projects in collaboration with their peers. It has been known to be effective in fostering key future capabilities. - The authors provided PBL-related assistance to freshmen in two middle schools in Daegu during the free semester in 2015, and observed changes in their communication and collaboration skills. - To measure communication, students were asked to list three closest classmates, and their answers were used to gauge students' level of communication and interaction in class. - To measure collaboration, students were placed in a situation in which their own personal interests were in conflict with the interests of the entire class, and their way of caring for and collaborating with others to handle the situation was observed. - Comparison of the students in the treatment and control groups shows that one semester of PBL contributed to enhancing students' communication and collaboration skills without interfering in their academic achievements. - Despite the growing importance of PBL, Korea ranked the lowest in the world in terms of PBL use in class. - The government should urgently reform the curriculum and admission systems to enable a stable adoption of PBL in the mid- to longterm, while attracting more teachers to the bottom-up approach in the short-term.

Date: 2016
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