Project Based Learning and Sport – Why It Can Work

In my previous post about the GWS Giants and their resemblance to a high school, I touched briefly on how the Giants experiment is a big example of Project Based Learning. It bears reflecting on just why Project Based Learning (PBL) is a strategy that could work as well in sport as it can in high schools.

The PBL model is based on the idea that students are offered a goal to achieve – to finish a project – rather than doing endless drills that can end up looking like something you do just for the sake of doing drills.  Therefore, the way you engage with a student is to offer an intrinsic motivation to achieve improvement, rather than just extrinsic motivation.  Project Based Learning offers that, because the onus on learning and improving is placed on the student, wanting to work to achieve a set of goals. It also encourages constant reflection and feedback on the increments at which a project is being completed.

This is why it is encouraging that clubs like the Giants hand their players computers and tell them to prepare assignments where they reflect on their own games as well as research the games of other players. That they invite feedback and challenges from other players and the coaches.  The way they have employed experienced “teachers” to run alongside the younger players, being facilitators, modelling how certain plays are done and then seeing how the younger players do it. I am guessing the teachers are finding themselves being taught by the younger players at times. This is what happens during good PBL lessons.

Good PBL also teaches students academic resilience and self-directed learning and improvement skills which can be taken onto post-school life, whether that be university, trades or other forms of work.  In football, students at Giants High will initially have the challenges of achieving game time, victories, higher salaries, high profiles and the rest.  What makes a player great, however, is usually a combination of the extrinsic and the intrinsic desire to constantly improve. Not every player will achieve eilte player status nor attract the high salaries.  They can, however, work towards the goal of being satisfied with the targets they can achieve. That will be their resilience.

What this will mean for the Giants as a club will be interesting to observe. The PBL style of learning will be great for the skills development of the players as well as their mental development. I suspect that it will also instil the idea that the club is an inviting place to be. This is where PBL works as a teaching and learning strategy. With it, students want to learn. They can do it with fun and engagement. PBL cuts down on the drudge level of learning.  The Giants will be hoping that the engagement will not only be with the skill development, but also loyalty and connection to the club. It helps that the life skill development being undertaken by the welfare team will strengthen that friendly communal atmosphere. I think the Giants should be fairly confident that they have created a place where the kids of today will be happy to be stars of Western Sydney tomorrow.



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