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Project-Based Learning shows Students That What They Study Matters in the Real World

18 July 2022

At NWRC, Annette Smith coordinates Project Based Learning throughout our five campuses.

Formerly a lecturer herself, Annette was appointed PBL coordinator/mentor at NWRC in 2015 which encourages a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through actively exploring real-world challenges and problems.

Name: Annette Smith

Job Title: Project Based Learning Coordinator/Mentor

Years spent at NWRC: 28 years

What campuses do you work in?: The beauty of my job is that I get to work across all campuses with staff from all curriculum areas

What was your path to working at NWRC?: I am a hairdresser by trade, when I owned my own salon in Buncrana I always took students from the hairdressing department on work placement. I loved passing on the knowledge and experience to new staff and students. I also loved supporting the students from NWRC. I completed my Level 3 hairdressing at NWRC and from that started Teaching part-time whilst still running my salon. I then applied for and got a full-time post in the hairdressing department. I would have always included live projects when teaching hairdressing to give the student the experience of, for example, working on a live photo shoot on location for a local designer, or a promotional campaign across the college of the products and services provided within the hairdressing department. Then I got the opportunity to apply for Project Based Learning Coordinator for the College, and as they say, the rest is history. I have been PBL coordinator for 6 years and love every minute of it.

What is Project Based Learning? PBL is a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploring real-world challenges and problems. Students learn about a subject by working for a period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge, or problem. It is a style of active learning and inquiry-based learning.

Describe your job in under 50 words: Every day is different. I get to work with the most amazing staff and students every day who are passionate about what they do. I get to showcase the amazing projects that our students work on and represent NWRC as PBL coordinator at a local, sector and international level.

Most rewarding part of your job: Seeing our students work on projects in collaboration with local businesses and community organisations and how the staff at NWRC support them in every way is amazing, makes me very proud to be a member of staff at NWRC
I organise and host Project Based Learning awards for NWRC every year. The students get to pitch their projects to a panel of external judges who then have to decide on a winner for each of the chosen categories. The winners of each category go on to represent NWRC at the Sector PBL awards, where all 6 colleges across Northern Ireland showcase their projects. This is the highlight for me every year. To see our students showcase and be successful at a sector level is amazing and very humbling

Best moment at NWRC? Has to be the ISS to Hong Kongg have never been prouder of students, The work that the staff put in with the students before they went to Hong Kong and seeing the students represent NWRC at that level and how they conducted themselves throughout the trip was amazing and very humbling.

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