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Educational Reform through Project-based Learning (PBL)

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  • Author LEE. Jooho, Kim. Booyuel, PARK. Yoonsoo, Syngjoo Choi
  • Date 2016/06/08
  • Series No. KDI FOCUS No. 66, eng.
  • Language English
SUMMARY □ 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.
KDI VOD Report
Gaining increased prominence, project-based learning is an educational
pedagogy in which students are naturally led to learning through
self-directed projects in collaboration with their peers.

It has also proven effective in enhancing vital future competencies. Specifically, the 4Cs – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

However, despite the increasing number of countries jumping on the bandwagon and implementing their own PBL models, Korea’s implementation of PBL was ranked the lowest in the world according to the OECD..

Accordingly, KDI analyzed the effects of PBL on the development of key
future competencies through behavioral economics and explored the
necessary reforms for Korea’s education system.

Two middle schools in Daegu were selected to be the treatment group
and a PBL program was initiated with Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education for freshman students during the free semester of 2015. Teachers were also provided with consulting services.

To compare, 3 middle schools in the surrounding areas were selected to be in the control group.
Preliminary and concluding evaluations were conducted in all five schools, and changes in communication and collaboration, as well as in academic achievement were examined.
To measure communication skill, students were asked to list three closest classmates to assess the level of interaction and communication in class.
Here, a higher probability of the chosen classmates being friends indicates a stronger peer network.

The results show that there were indeed changes in the students’ relationships with their classmates(as a result of the PBL program.)
The probability of the three chosen classmates being friends increased
by approximately 20%p, implying that PBL was effective in strengthening
peer networks.
For collaboration skill, games in which the students’ interests were in conflict with those of the entire class, were designed to measure the level of consideration and cooperation.

In the Public Good Game, for example, students were given 2,000 won
to invest in both a personal and class account, at their discretion.
Students received 100% of the amount in the personal account
while receiving 10% of the total amount in the class account, regardless of how much they each invested.
The results show that compared to the students in the treatment group, those in the treatment group saved approximately 8% more in the class account, which students’ willingness to trust and cooperate for the common good was enhenced.

[저자 인터뷰 1]
We find that although there was little impact on students’ academic achievements, peer networks were reinforced and as such, students exhibited increased levels of mutual trust and cooperation.
This implies that PBL does indeed enhance vital future competencies such as communication and collaboration.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that this study was conducted during the free semester, which makes attempting new teaching methods easier.
However, the reform of curriculum and admission systems are now urgently needed to encourage new and innovative ways of teaching, not only during the free semester but throughout the whole school year.

[저자 인터뷰 2]
Project-based learning is the most important and central starting point for Korea’s educational reform.
Implementing PBL classes during the free semester can ensure the success of the newly adopted free semester system.
Moreover, PBL could also advance the university admissions system if the results of the PBL classes were submitted to admissions officersss.
As such, in order to encourage the use of PBL in Korean classrooms, the government must provide support through teacher training programs and consistent consultations.
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