The experience of students and teachers in project-based learning
This study uses action research to examine the experience of students and teachers as they participated in a project-based learning unit. The literature suggests that project-based learning can increase the involvement of students in the learning process and develop 21st century skills such as collaboration, problem solving and time management (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2010a). The students involved were in Grade 8 and were studying Optics. My hypothesis was that if students were engaged in self-directed learning through project-based learning, they would report being more engaged and achievement would increase. The students completed reflection questions at the summation of the project, which indicated an increase in effort applied to their work, an enjoyment of the project autonomy and the development of time-management skills. As the teacher, I completed engagement rubrics during each class on which students reported high levels of engagement. I also kept a journal that I wrote in after each class, which I coded for themes at the end of the research. Three themes emerged from this journal: uncertainty surrounding what an engaged classroom should look like, anxiety regarding students being selfdirected in their learning, and a correlation between my cognitive energy and the perception of the lesson. The results of this study suggest that while students experience increased engagement and achievement, an emphasis needs to be placed on providing teachers with opportunities to learn and experiment with project-based learning.