EdTech 542

Introduction to Project-Based Learning

According to an Edutopia article by Larmer (2014), problem-based learning follows a series of steps involving a presentation of an open-ended problem, a defined problem, assessment of background knowledge and what is needed to know going forward, list of possible solutions, self-directed or coached learning, and finally the sharing of solutions. Problem-based learning is often on a single subject and tends to be shorter. The final product may simply be a solution proposal and often uses case studies or fictitious scenarios.

Project-based learning (PBL) is often multi-disciplinary and may take a lot of time (weeks or even months). It follows general steps, includes the creation of a product (or performance), and involves real-world authentic tasks (Larmer, 2014).

While the two to have differences they also share some similarities in that they both focus on an open-ended question or task, require application of skills, emphasize independent learning, and are usually multidimensional in contrast to traditional classroom lessons.

According to BIE.org, project-based learning focuses on student learning goals (including core standards/objectives), requires students to be in engaged in a rigorous inquiry process, and provides problems in real-life context. Students are given the choice and freedoms to make decisions and evaluate their project and then reflect on the published product.

Teachers are considering using PBL for a multitude of reasons. According to BIE.org, PBL is simply more engaging for students. It is not a passive learning experience and feels relevant in the lives of students. Upon completion of a project, students retain the learned information longer and understand the content more deeply. With PBL, students are required to take responsibility for their own learning, which is a necessary skill for 21st century successful careers. Other reasons teachers are moving towards PBL is because it Common Core standards are requiring higher-order thinking and processing skills of students. Teachers find the PBL process rewarding because they are seeing their students engaged and developing life-long meaningful learning opportunities.

To be considered a “Gold Standard PBL” project the project must meet eight key criteria as outlined on BIE.org:

  1. The project must be focused on standards and teaching students information including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  2. The project is based on a meaningful problem or question and appropriately challenges students.
  3. The project makes students generate questions, find and use resources, and develop answers/solutions throughout the process and over time.
  4. The project has a real-world context and is connected to students’ own concerns and ideas.
  5. The project allows students to make choices about what they create, how they work/use their time, and are guided by the teacher (dependent on age and experience).
  6. The project allows for student reflection.
  7. The project allows students to give and receive feedback on their work and the ability to revise or ask further questions.
  8. The project is presented, published, or orally shared to people beyond the walls of the classroom.

Larmer, J. (2014). Project-based learning vs. problem-based learning vs. X-BL. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-vs-pbl-vs-xbl-john-larmer

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bie.org/about/what_pbl


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