“Against a backdrop of uncertainty, economic turmoil and unprecedented change a new picture is emerging of the skills and traits for success (and perhaps even simply survival) in the modern era. At the heart of this essential skillset for the future lies ... creativity.”

– Mark Batey, University of Manchester

Problem-Based Learning, Project-Based Learning, and Product-Based Learning environments are changing the way students process information and levels of engagement. All three move educators away from traditional teaching towards creating more progressive authentic learning environments.

Project-Based Learning

This learning environment is structured around a complex challenge that usually involves the collaboration of teams of students working on authentic activities. These types of activities may be designed to answer questions, to build models, or to solve problems. Students in these teams work on developing life skills, such as; communication, presentation, organization, and time management.

Problem-Based Learning

This learning environment is designed for the purpose of teaching problem-solving skills by confronting teams with ill-structured problems that mirror real world issues. Students focus on skills, such as; writing problem statements, identifying needed information and resources, generating and analyzing solutions, and presenting solutions orally and/or in writing.

Product-Based Learning

Product-based learning environments are based on having individuals or small groups of students create a series of products to demonstrate an understanding of material presented and/or researched outcomes. Students learn how to incrementally improve product development in a wide variety of genres.

Crossover Skill Development

In some scenarios, Project-Based, Problem-Based, and Product-Based concepts intertwine and students have opportunities to develop a host of life skills. For instance, the team assignment could be to address the lack of desirability of living in city “XXX”. To solve this problem, teams of students may be involved in creating any number of projects to entice newcomers to reside in their city. And finally, the projects may require the development of new and improved products.

Creativity-Based Learning: CBL

At Curiosita Teaching™, we use Product-Based Learning to scaffold the development of students’ creativity skills. Students are given choices in product assignments to encourage passionate levels of involvement in both their creative work and the concepts being presented. Students work collaboratively in individual, partner, and small group settings. Our differentiator is that we teach the tools, skills, and mindsets of creativity in tandem with product development. Student participants immersed in the creative cycle (develop-refine-develop . . . produce) acquire life-changing skills and experiences.

Pluses and Minuses

Perhaps you’ve been contemplating the pluses and minuses of these instructional designs. This is a topic of conversation that comes up often in our training sessions. In our text, Curiosita Teaching: Integrating Creativity Into All Teaching and Learning, we offer that all three have merits and implementation challenges. Each approach increases engagement, deeper learning, life & career skill attainment, and last but not least, a more rewarding and enjoyable teaching and learning experience. And each comes with its own learning curve depending on your frame of reference and experiences.

Creativity Skill Development: The Missing Link

In each of the learning environments, the missing link (for educators) has been the lack of training and resources needed to teach students the skills and mindsets of creativity. These skills can only be properly introduced and mastered in Product-Based Learning environments. Once you enter the more complex programs of Project/Problem-Based learning the focus becomes too diverse and the incremental creativity skill development is lost or overshadowed.

Creativity, embedded into the thinking of students and the teaching of educators enhances the outcomes of all learning environments. Students prepared with the skills of creativity (creative thinking, critical thinking, and creative productivity) will be equipped to reach increased levels of success with product, project, and problem-based challenges throughout their lifespans.

Live creatively and prosper,

Rick & Patti Shade

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