Is it Still PBL without an Authentic Audience?

Week 4

No. A vital component of Project-based learning is the audience, and it teaches the students to think about the importance of their work and who it will reach. A high school project that will be presented to second graders should be created very differently than one that will be presented to a panel of professors. In my experience, students are very capable of putting information on slides, but they are much weaker at adjusting their presentation to the audience who will view it. The audience aspect of PBL is one of the requirements that forces the students to think critically.

However, some proponents of PBL are very narrow in their definition of an authentic audience, believing an authentic audience should always be people outside the classroom, like the school board, a group of parents, business leaders, or a boy scout troop. I think sometimes the most authentic audience is the one inside the classroom. I am not opposed to an outside audience, especially for long-term projects, like a 12-week long genocide project for my Modern World History classes when a panel of local history professors evaluate the best projects from each class. On the other hand, if my history students are creating an autopsy of an Asian empire during the Age of Exploration, their audience may be their classmates who they are trying to instruct. When my English students are writing a research paper about banned American literature, I am their audience, preparing them for a college professor who will also be their audience in time.

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