My professor posed a question to us, “Is it still PBL without an authentic audience?”
I have been thinking on this for some time. According to the Buck Institute for Education, PBL needs to be authentic. This is one of the essential elements to create a successful Project-Based Learning environment. The project needs to feature “real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speak to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives” (Buck Institute for Education). Another essential element is a public product. BIE also notes that the project should be displayed, explained, or presented to people beyond the classroom. That describes the need for some type of audience.
I think that an authentic audience is much more helpful and stresses the importance to the students. For example, if a project required students to examine the local landscape, water flow, animal habitats, and community growth predictions in order to design a new residential neighborhood with minimal environmental impact, it would be much more effective and realistic to present that proposed plan to the town mayor or zoning board than it would be to show the proposed plan to the group of digital pen pals that live hundreds of miles away.
Buck Institute for Education. What is project based learning (PBL)? Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl