How can teachers conquer project-based learning challenges? It's important to be able to do since project-based learning is an excellent way to advance education and get things done if it's used the right way. It's commonly seen for class projects, but there are so many other ways to use it. Many of those ways can be very meaningful from a societal standpoint.
The key to making it meaningful and getting things done is Solution Fluency. Having the right fluency means not just a skill set, but a mindset as well.
When you're working on any kind of project, it's designed to solve a problem (i.e. to provide a solution to something). You can't do that if you can't see the problem clearly since you won't have a good understanding of what the issue really is.
Solution Fluency can teach you how to think critically so you can look at several different perspectives and visualize all the possibilities.
Once you see those possibilities, it becomes easier to determine how you're going to make them into reality and achieve a true, lasting solution to the problem you face.
It's Not About a "Quick Fix"
Too many people look for a band-aid type of solution to their project-based learning challenges, both in the classroom and in the corporate world. Those types of solutions can work for a while, but they're not going to get to the bottom of the issue and solve it in the long term. What's needed is the drive to take on any challenge and the skills and mindset to work through those challenges and solve them the right way.
When you have project-based learning that doesn't use Solution Fluency, that drive is often missing. So is the right mindset.
The 6Ds Process
There are six parts to Solution Fluency—Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Debrief. All these steps, along with the skills they develop, are outlined in the Solution Fluency Quickstart Guide. It's a terrific companion as you dive into Solution Fluency and connect it to any project-based learning challenges in your own classroom.
It's important to remember that the 6Ds are a non-linear cyclical process. That means that as Solution Fluency is applied to project-based learning, it is very common to revisit any or all of previous stages as new information and insights are obtained and applied to the solution. This kind of revision is a very proactive part of the 6Ds process because problem-solving isn't always a straightforward journey.
Defining the problem is a requirement, as it's very difficult to work on any type of project without being clear on what the problem actually is. It's not easy to come up with a true solution to a very vague problem. Albert Einstein once claimed that if given an hour to solve a problem, he would spend 5 minutes on the solution, and devote the rest of that hour to defining the problem.
Once the problem is properly defined, discovery begins. That puts the problem in context and provides enough background information to see how the problem applies to the rest of a person's life. With project-based learning, that can get overlooked because the focus is solely on the project, not how the culmination of that project will affect other areas.
The dream comes next, as visualization is needed to come up with a solution. Imagining the solution—or a number of different solutions to look through—becomes the main focus in this stage.
Once the solution has been dreamed of, it's necessary to start designing something that can provide that solution to the problem. In order to come up with steps that are achievable and measurable, start from the end result you're looking for and work your way backward to where you are now. That will show you how to get from one step to the next, ensuring that you arrive at the correct solution in the best way possible.
When the dream becomes a reality, you'll be in the delivery stage of solution fluency. It's where the design is finally implemented, and put to the test.
By applying the right solution to the problem at hand, the solving of that problem will be something that actually takes place the right way.
The solution will be one that is permanent and that can be used without damaging other aspects surrounding the problem itself.
Don't overlook the last step, though, which is to debrief. When you analyze and review the process, you can look for and discover any areas where things need to be improved in the future. Evaluating the journey, whether it's in the classroom or the boardroom, is an important and integral part of ensuring that project-based learning becomes something more, and that Solution Fluency is used to make solving problems easier in the future.
Here's a great infographic to help you along the way. It's all about designing project-based learning using Solution Fluency.
When the focus is removed from the project specifically and placed on the way in which problems are solved, that knowledge can be used for other problems in the future. Much more is learned that way, and the biggest problem with project-based learning is solved at the same time.