PBL or Project-Based learning is a teaching methodology in which students learn by doing. PBL is not the same as "doing projects in the classroom." Instead, it is a rigorous, managed, inquiry based approach in which learners solve complex questions, problems, or challenges, and create authentic products to demonstrate learning. Through this student-centric approach, projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed. Students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills in small, collaborative groups.
Components of PBL
Content Compelling Ideas
- Problems presented in their full complexity
- Students discover interdisciplinary connections between ideas
- Students struggle with ambiguity, complexity, and unpredictability
- Real-world situations which engage students’ interest
Conditions Student Autonomy
- Students simulate the professional work of the scholar, researcher, engineer, reporter, planner, manager, and other practitioners.
- Students take part in a community of inquiry and pursue work in a social context.
- Students direct their own work and take control over their own learning.
- Students are called upon to exhibit task/time management behaviors both individually and as part of the group.
- Students conduct multi-faceted investigations for extended periods of time.
- Students encounter obstacles, seek resources, and solve problems in response to an overall challenge.
- Students use authentic tools.
- Students get feedback about the worth of their ideas.
Results Real World Results
- Students generate complex intellectual products that demonstrate their learning.
- Students participate in their own assessment.
- Students are held accountable for their work and actively choose how they will demonstrate learning.
- Students exhibit growth in frequently neglected areas important for real-world competence.
Stages of a Project
A well-thought out PBL unit follows a specific sequence that allows students to build their own learning:
- Preparing - Teachers begin by putting a lot of thought and planning up front. They develop essential questions and learning objectives based on key curriculum and standards. They locate resources and develop a structure that will help students respond to the problem or challenge of the unit.
- Planning - The learner is introduced to the unit via the essential question. Key vocabulary is introduced and there are engaging activities designed to access and build upon prior learning. Students work in small, collaborative groups to respond to the problem or challenge of the unit.
- Gathering - Learners gather information through research, direct observation, experimentation, interviews, and more. They take notes, collect graphics and sources, take pictures, shoot video, and otherwise amass information that will help them learn more about the problem or challenge of the unit.
- Building - Students synthesize information gathered by creating an original product using real-world tools and technologies. Sample products might include presentations, websites, skits/plays, movie, PSA, newspaper, brochure, poster, webzine, ebook, podcast, or more. Their final product demonstrates what they have learned about the topic in a new and original way.
- Presentation/Publication - Students share what they have learned by presenting the products they create to an audience beyond the classroom. They present their products to the public (in persona and/or online) and can speak comfortably about what they have learned.
- Reflection - Throughout the process, students are asked to give and receive feedback in order to improve the quality of the products they create. After presentation and publication, they are asked to think about what and how they are learning and reflect on how they will apply new knowledge and skills in the future.
How PBL Aligns with Common Core
With the adoption of Common Core Standards by 45 states, schools are scrambling to find teaching methodology that supports and is aligned to the Common Core. For many teachers, this means teaching differently.
The good news is that teachers who use PBL approach are already meeting and exceeding Common Core. High-quality PBL aligned with Common Core emphasizes:
- Rigor: Students read increasingly complex texts, and create products that demonstrate understanding of these concepts.
- Informational Texts: Classrooms are places where students access the world through text. Students created products emphasize use of evidence from text.
- Multidisciplinary learning: Science, social studies, and technical subjects are integrated into Language arts and Math
- Inquiry: Students learn to apply knowledge in response to a significant challenge or question. Ownership of learning is on the student, changing the role of the teacher.
- Deep understanding: Teachers are expected to organize learning that provides students time and scaffolded support to promote deep thinking of complex ideas. Emphasis shifts from "getting the answer" to deep, conceptual understandings.
- Collaboration: Students work in teams to build on each other's ideas.
- Academic Vocabulary: Students utilize pivotal terms.