Children with special needs benefit greatly from project-based learning. Teachers of special needs education will be wise to use project-based learning with their students as project-based learning meet the needs of those with special needs. Besides, in a mixed ability setting, children in the mainstream will also be able to adopt the same project as their special needs classmates, while tailoring it to meet their own needs. Benefits of project-based learning include the following:
1. Flexibility in the management of the project. Special needs children may have more than their school work to tend to. Many of them undergo therapy sessions apart from the daily grind of school work. Some special needs students also have physical disabilities that require short-term or long-term medical treatment at the hospital. Project-based learning may have the same deadline for all students, but allows special needs students the flexibility of planning their own check points along the way and working their medical needs into their schedules as well.
2. Development of meta-cognition. Children with special needs are often seen to be academically disabled, although it is often not true. Project-based learning helps them to develop meta-cognition instead. As they learn to manage themselves and the project, they begin to develop skills to help themselves learn and monitor their own learning. The results are often surprising and these children with special needs can often produce remarkable results that they usually will not be able to in a regular class setting, because they are given the time and self-mastery opportunities in project-based learning.
3. A multiple- intelligence approach. While regular classroom activities are limited in scope, project-based learning allow students to explore areas of interests and presentations that work around their stronger intelligences. They are therefore able to learn about the same thing using different activities and mediums. For example, a linguistically strong student can rattle off the dates and events of a period in American History. A student with special needs could get these dates and events fitted into his own presentation slides and review them until they get into his long-term memory.
4. Abilities are taken into account. Project-based learning takes into account the various abilities of the students. Students are allowed to define their project from a broad based theme or subject and make it within their abilities to handle. Teachers help facilitate their processes such that they manage their project well. In this aspect, the abilities of students with special needs are matched to their projects and the students are ensured of success in one way or another.
5. A greater sense of ownership. Project-based learning gives children with learning needs a greater sense of ownership of their learning processes. They are more in touch with how they learn, what they want to learn and what they will do to acquire the learning. It is owning active learning processes, rather than passively receiving information from teachers.
6. Greater autonomy in the selection of project goals. In some project-based learning, students can form their own goals based on a given topic. Students with special needs can be guided towards goals that they can achieve and learn something in the process of completing their project. They are thus more committed to completing their project because they want to reach the goals that they have formed.
7. A greater sense of achievement. Because students are the owners of the project goals and processes, they feel a greater sense of achievement when they complete their projects successfully. Even if they do not reach their goals, the processes they go through enable them to acquire knowledge that will stand them well in the learning processes.
Project-based learning can benefit all students. It benefits students with special needs even more as it works into it their needs and abilities. It is therefore a form of learning to be promoted in special education.