Message From the Dean

Message From the Dean

The theme of this issue of Inquiry is "project-based learning." Our Learning Sciences faculty use the term "project-based learning" to describe extended learning experiences for students that are motivated by a "driving question" or problem. For example they have designed project-based learning units for students to answer the question "Does my school lunch meet my body's need for energy?" or around a design goal, such as "How can we design a school that will have minimal impact on the natural, local habitat?"

Depending on the setting and learning objectives, the project goal may be set in advance by a curriculum developer as above or by a teacher or it may be developed by students. A project-based unit typically culminates in a consequential task such as a debate over the driving question or the construction of a prototype design solution.

Danny Edelson has developed a "Learning for Use" framework in which he describes project-based learning in terms of three phases: a motivation phase, in which students learn about or decide upon their goal; a knowledge construction phase, in which students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the goal; and an application phase, in which students apply the knowledge and skills they have obtained to achieve the goal.

In this issue we focus on the project-based learning work of Uri Wilensky, Louis Gomez and David Kanter, who with Danny Edelson, Brian Reiser and Bruce Sherin form the Northwestern University part of the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS). A collaboration of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Northwestern, the Center aims to prepare the next generation of curriculum materials leaders through design, analysis and implementation of innovative curricula of the kind we describe in the pages that follow.

ENJOY! (That's what most of the students seem to be doing as they learn through pursuing their driving questions in the project-based approaches described herein).
By Penelope Peterson