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:
- The project must be focused on standards and teaching students information including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
- The project is based on a meaningful problem or question and appropriately challenges students.
- The project makes students generate questions, find and use resources, and develop answers/solutions throughout the process and over time.
- The project has a real-world context and is connected to students’ own concerns and ideas.
- 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).
- The project allows for student reflection.
- The project allows students to give and receive feedback on their work and the ability to revise or ask further questions.
- 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