What guides our learning? Should we systematically master blocks of content, or should we chart a path from one goal to the next?
Think of an explorer in a forest. If he were very organized, he might use a compass to march back and forth through a plot, systematically recording all the natural features. A more value-driven explorer, however, might look for signs of life and curiosity on his way, perhaps following the flow of a creek towards fertile vegetation. Courses and textbooks seem to illustrate the former approach, while project-based learning is most like the latter.
Goals are frequently what motivate us to work, and basing our learning on the acquisition of real-life value propels us to accomplish great things. Even if you’re in the midst of an education that takes the systematic approach, a few hours spent solving a problem or working towards a goal you really care about would not be wasted.