4 Ways Project-Based Learning Prepares Kids for the Future of Work

4 Ways Project-Based Learning Prepares Kids for the Future of Work

With increasing globalization, artificial intelligence, new technologies and a growing gig economy, our kids are entering an ever-changing world that will require adaptability, creativity, flexibility, growth-mindedness and a focus on skills. Project-based learning (PBL) is built to be engaging, collaborative, tech-ready, learner-owned and personalized. What better way to prepare kids for a rapidly changing world and economy? Let’s examine four core skills that high-quality PBL builds:

1. Creativity Skills

Creativity is no longer reserved for only certain professions. It’s a vital skill for everyone. Creativity is used in every professional pursuit, from innovation to problem-solving, branding, networking, collaborating, competing and more. It exists in how we work, how we select tools and how we choose collaborators. We use creativity every time we focus our resources on turning ideas into reality. We all have the capacity for creativity but must invest in it as well.

PBL and Creativity Skills

Authentic public projects allow learners to take on various roles in which they can optimize their expertise and assume high levels of responsibility. Throughout the PBL process, learners make many choices, such as which aspect of a challenge to address, how they’ll address it and how they’ll invite others to see their work. Choices not only allow for creativity but require it. PBL encourages the individual and the team to see creativity in themselves and in others in new ways, and it invites them to apply their individual and collective creative capacity to real-world work.

2. Leadership / Global Citizenship Skills

In the past, only some individuals were considered leaders. The economy of the future, however, requires everyone to cultivate their leadership skills to address real-world issues. Seemingly insurmountable challenges — such as food and water shortages, access to quality health care and education, climate change and renewable energies — present the greatest opportunities to redefine work and create industries. As our problems seem to get bigger, our world gets smaller. The next generations of professionals will need to be global citizens.

PBL and Leadership / Global Citizenship Skills

Because PBL focuses first on addressing real-world problems, it invites learners to think as global citizens. Whether it’s a school-wide concern, a local community challenge or a global need, PBL allows learners to connect their skills as well as the academic standards to things they themselves and others care about. High-quality projects not only give learners a global perspective but also allow them to access, practice and showcase their individual leadership skills. Learners can collaborate with outside partners, share their work with their communities and ultimately contribute to the larger work of the world. Throughout the process, they step up with fearlessness, creativity and compassion to address real-world challenges. In other words, they exercise leadership.

3. Initiative and Entrepreneurial Skills

Entrepreneurial skills are no longer limited to the few. In a gig economy, an entrepreneurial skill set is more useful than ever. Professionals of the future will need to initiate, adapt. They will be valued for their ability to appropriately identify what needs to be done and then do it.

PBL & Initiative and Entrepreneurial Skills

Schools have traditionally often crushed the entrepreneurial spirit, but PBL fosters it. High-quality projects ask learners to tackle real-world challenges, invest some of themselves through choices and take on specific roles. Learners become accustomed to step-by-step processes and workflows. They make decisions, investigate possible directions and discuss approaches with peers and professionals. Learners in PBL environments might create websites, social media campaigns, YouTube channels, events, logos, hashtags and, yes, even companies and nonprofit organizations. The possibilities are endless for projects that will require them to flex their entrepreneurial muscles.

4. Collaboration Skills

Authentic collaboration is considered one of the most important employability skills. Companies can train people on technical skills, but many leaders want people who come prepared to partner. Collective thinking and working produce better ideas, which produce more innovation. Collaboration provides opportunities to continually learn and improve, to solve problems and to create more opportunities for work and learning. If we want lifelong learning, collaboration is the vehicle.

PBL & Collaboration Skills

PBL is perfectly designed for high-quality peer-to-peer collaboration, but it also gives learners the opportunity to extend their collaborative skills to outside partnerships. ⁠Learners can connect with local companies, nonprofits, experts, entrepreneurs, advocates and civic leaders to take their learning to higher levels. The more authentic the partnerships, the more relevant the work becomes. Collaboration also provides natural avenues for learners to showcase their work and take it public to larger audiences. As a natural byproduct, learners have an expanded network of mentors and leaders who will continue to impact their education and eventual careers. Additionally, in collaborative teams, learners will have opportunities to serve in various roles and have distinct responsibilities. Learners optimize their unique skills and talents and develop socially and emotionally as well. They contribute to the team and produce professional work at high levels.