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Project-Based Learning
Leads to Success
By James Anderson

ROJECT-based learning try harder. Project-based learning and developing relationships with
and academic integration connects new learning with students’ the students, community, and indus-
are integral parts of the past knowledge and experiences. try partners is an ongoing task. The
automotive technology Involving business and industry rewards for the program, however,
program at Greenville partners has been a huge benefit and most important the rewards for
High School. This Ohio comprehen- for my program. Working with local the students, outweigh the extra
sive school has used both of these business people develops people time required to keep the initiative
strategies for the past 15 years and
their success is reflected in nine
state SkillsUSA gold medals and one Automotive
bronze, in addition to eight gold med- students observe
als earned at the national SkillsUSA operation of an
competition. In this article, I describe incline plane built
these elements of instruction and in partnership
show how they work together in my between students,
program. teachers, and
Background members. The
on Project-Based Learning plane is used
Project-based learning is a com- to measure
prehensive approach to instruction. coefficient of
It involves development of a project friction of motor
related to a career field. This engages oils.
students—and gives the instructor
the opportunity to encourage team- skills that students can use all their moving forward. In my program, co-
work, problem-solving skills, and lives. They learn that all people are taught with Travis Nicholas, projects
community involvement. This meth- individuals with both similarities and are always related to the latest tech-
od of instruction allows for a variety differences. They learn to express nology in the automotive industry.
of learning styles. It can be adapted their thoughts clearly and that col-
for projects that may run just a week laboration and compromise are es- Project Details
or two in duration or, on the other sential skills in working successfully Students choose or are grouped
hand, can be a yearlong process. with others. into teams to work toward the com-
Project-based learning provides a Also, our industry partners have mon goal of completing the construc-
“real world” experience in a risk-free made many donations for student tion of the project. The teams might
environment. It uses the hands-on projects including new vehicles and include roles for photographers,
approach to learning, which leads to components. In addition, students builders, solicitors to the community
fuller understanding of the subject and instructors have taken field trips for support and supplies, design-
matter. Students have responsibility and tours to manufacturing facilities, ers, PowerPoint developers, or web
for—take ownership in—their own including Honda, GM, Chrysler, and page controllers. Instructors monitor
learning, which motivates them to Toyota assembly plants. student work and students adhere
In project-based learning, the strictly to a timeline to ensure com-
James Anderson is an automotive teacher is the facilitator of learning. pletion in a timely manner.
technology teacher, Greenville (OH) I’ve found that project-based learning Some work is done during lab
High School. is extra work for instructors. Building class that meets the National Au-

20 techdirections X NOVEMBER 2010

tomotive Technicians Education tive industry, students also practice maintained high levels of interest
Foundation’s (NATEF) standards set English curriculum content in the in their own learning because their
forth by the state and the industry. context of the automotive industry. hands-on/minds-on schoolwork was
This takes place in con- meaningful. In the years I observed
junction with the critical- students developing their automo-
thinking skills and process- tive projects, a by-product has been
ing of information that are the development of strong leadership
an important part of the and communications skills. Having
English curriculum. opportunities to demonstrate their
Each of these classes projects in operation, whether for
is taught by the academic students and staff, local community
teacher, with the automo- groups, or at national competitions,
tive teacher assigned to the students’ presentation skills and
class as a career content confidence grew enormously. There’s
specialist. It is important no doubt these experiences changed
to understand there must and enriched the lives of those who
be continuity between the were involved.”
academic and technical I strongly feel that Greenville High
content and collaboration School’s automotive technology pro-
orig title Preventive maintenance4 between the teachers for gram is doing things the right way. In
academic integration to addition to winning awards, we see
Bar graph, developed in the academically work properly. the success of having many students
integrated automotive math and automotive further their education through the
science classes, compares the coefficient of Success Recognized Automotive Youth Education System
friction between different lubrication options. For six years, Suzanne (AYES) program, a summer intern-
Darmer, an assistant su- ship at a local dealership or indepen-
Students perform other construction perintendent in curriculum and dent service center that takes place
procedures before and after school. instruction, has supported the effort between the junior and senior year.
of those in Greenville High School’s And after high school graduation, a
Academic Integration automotive technology program. large percentage of our students go
A second important facet of Darmer says, “The setting of auto- on to postsecondary education to
Greenville High School’s automotive motive technology is a natural op- earn an associate’s degree in automo-
program involves academic integra- portunity for project-based learning, tive technology/science.
tion. This is the process of teaching
the core academic classes through
the content of the career field with
a blended curriculum. Greenville
combines the essential parts of an Students in the
academic core with excellent ca- academically
reer-technical studies, which gives integrated science
students opportunities to use math, class experiment
reading, writing, science, and tech- with the viscosity of
nology knowledge with skills learned different grades of
in their real-world projects. motor oil at varying
For example, in auto math class, temperatures.
measuring bore and stroke of an
engine parallels finding the volume
of a cylinder in a geometry class,
and the study of Pascal’s law brings
to life proportioning reasoning stu-
dents learn in Algebra I. In science where students can learn academics Project-based learning and
class, experiments associated with in the context of a career-technical academic integration engages
the project are also conducted, with classroom. Through cooperative students, giving them a purpose
findings recorded. Again, the science planning and teamwork, teach- to succeed in all classes and in
curriculum is connected to automo- ers of mathematics, science, and life. To see an example of one
tive technology. other subjects joined efforts with of my students’ recent projects,
In English class, which addresses the career-technical staff to align visit
skills that are an extremely important to state standards, raise expecta- Career%20Tech/Auto%20Tech/08-
part of the service-oriented automo- tions, and deepen learning. Students 09%20Auto%20Tech/project.htm. CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION/AUTOMOTIVE 21

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