New Designs for School
New Designs for School

We’ve all had the experience of truly purposeful, authentic learning and know how valuable it is. Educators are taking the best of what we know about learning, student support, effective instruction, and interpersonal skill-building to completely reimagine schools so that students experience that kind of purposeful learning all day, every day.

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One challenge facing educators moving to PBL is providing support to learners who require more individualized instructor attention, such as students with ADHD.

The rise of project based learning (PBL) is largely attributed to the fact that it helps students develop a passion and aptitude for solving real-world problems. This student-centered teaching model challenges learners to answer questions and solve problems within the framework of a substantive project. Near and long term benefits of PBL are that it creates a portfolio that may aid the process of applying to colleges and universities.

Transitioning to PBL presents a variety of challenges to educators. One of these is the need to provide support to learners who require more individualized instructor attention, including students with ADHD. The good news: a successful implementation of PBL can not only fully accommodate students with ADHD, but also help them to thrive in a way they could not in a traditional classroom.

The dynamic of PBL allows students with ADHD to have more interaction with others, which will help them to both improve and maintain their focus on learning.

The Unique Challenge of ADHD

There are three major types of ADHD and each offers its own unique challenges. A constant among students with ADHD involves a struggle to focus, be persistent, and self-regulate. These struggles will initially be exacerbated by the transition to a new model. However, the move to a PBL environment also creates a wonderful opportunity for teachers to help these students develop skills that aid their education and their ability to manage their condition.

Students with ADHD are often more curious and creative than other learners. The flexibility of PBL will play to their strengths, while also helping them tackle their challenges. The dynamic of PBL allows students with ADHD to have more interaction with others, which will help them to both improve and maintain their focus on learning. PBL offers the best type of environment for these students: a supportive learning community.

Here are three crucial elements of a successful implementation of PBL that accommodates students with ADHD.

Building Long-Term Motivation

Students with ADHD must be properly motivated to delve into PBL while sustaining their interest and curiosity. They are prone to daydreaming and distractibility. When teachers choose projects, they should connect them with a student’s passions. This will help students with ADHD to maintain focus throughout the project.

Creating Clarity With Structure

As the project grows and tasks become more intricate, students with ADHD may become confused. However, they will thrive in a structured environment. Teachers can provide this sense of structure by keeping clear project timelines for these students. It’s also essential that teachers create clear routines and a daily to-do list to help students with ADHD build organizational skills. For example, the teacher may remind the student of the current status of the project and the tasks of the day every morning when class starts and again in the afternoon after lunch.

Teachers should also make it a habit to announce when one task had ended and the next one will begin. And allowing time for comments and recap at the end of each day will help ADHD learners stay up-to-date with the latest project status and manage their time well.

Cultivating Self-Esteem

Students with ADHD tend to struggle with confidence. Building self-esteem and their comfort with PBL will help them branch out and communicate more freely. Teachers must maintain a positive classroom environment to keep students actively participating. At the beginning of each class, they should allow each student to report a ‘win’ from the previous day. Creating a ‘wall of affirmations’ that students may add to daily can also be an effective technique for boosting the confidence of ADHD learners.

Communication is key. Teachers should provide encouragement and feedback frequently to students with ADHD. It is easy to look at a person’s weaknesses but it is vital to focus on their strengths. By viewing the student in this manner, you will be able to help them see their strengths and capabilities.

Being Creative with Methods

Be comfortable in applying new techniques and adjusting until you find a what works for your student. To better understand your unique student with ADHD it may be useful to meet with one of the student’s parents. The parents have likely formed strategies to help their child with organization, timeliness, and behaviour. You may receive new ideas and tips you had not considered that may better help you grow the student in the classroom.

PBL provides a balance of challenge and reward that keeps students engaged with real-world topics and ideas. The flexibility of this learning model provides freedom for students with ADHD to better express themselves and understand their unique strengths. They will be able to see the application of their skills, which will help drive them and better channel their gifts.

Brett Farmiloe headshot

Brett Farmiloe

Online Counseling Programs

Brett Farmiloe is a contributing writer for Online Counseling Programs, an online resource for counseling degrees, mental health education and related professions. He is also a backyard chicken farmer who frequently contributes content to Forbes and Huffington Post.