Intelligent Thinkers

We Blog to inspire teachers. “The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think.” James Beattie

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Essential Information About Project Based Learning

Who doesn't like to feel amazing? We live to be helpful and to be relevant. We evaluate and validate our usefulness through our interactions with others---

So why not bring these kinds of interactions into the classroom?

Project Based Learning (PBL) is the best pedagogical approach available to facilitate interactive curriculum and validate a student's self-worth.

Within PBL structures, students collaborate in groups applying what they know and learn to assigned tasks, comparing and analyzing alternative ideas for strength and validity, and blending and synthesizing findings into something useful to others.

Students amaze themselves when experiencing success. With enough collaborative projects, they come to believe they are amazing without always relying on validation from peers.

They learn to trust themselves and their work. 

As a result, they become intelligent thinkers and self-confident individuals able to make things happen for themselves and others. They become leaders with the best of intentions not only for themselves, but for the well-being of others, too.

The Origins of PBL

Project Based Learning (PBL) began in the 1960s at the McMaster University School of Medicine in Canada. The structure enabled flexible thinking and problem-solving within collaborative groups, and enabled a deeper understanding of content while also developing an intrinsic level of self-confidence and self-worth.

These same concepts are applied to PBL structures in K-12 education because according to Jane L. David,  in her article published on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD), "the core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students' interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context."

The PBL model has become one that transfers well to any learning environment. Use the information below to begin or update an understanding of PBL, and help move learning into the 21st century. 

Edutopia - The PBL Authority For K-12 Education

The quest for how to implement PBL structures within a district, school or classroom begins with Edutopia. They have developed every "How-to" scenario thought of or asked about by education professionals, and they have initiated many of their own.

These links on Edutopia are great places to start.
  1. Project-Based Learning
  2. Project-Based Learning - Professional Development Guide
  3. Project-Based Learning Workshop Activities

PBL Lesson Structures that Work 

Many lesson plan sites, including Edutopia, offer resources useful to teachers; however, the most comprehensive PBL units of study have been designed by Kate Parker, CFO of GoTeachGo. Kate's units make implementation  of content within the PBL structure easy. You can find these lessons at Teachers-Pay-Teachers. The units provide the essential elements of what makes a PBL unit work:
  1. Thematic with Integrated Curriculum Options
  2. Each lesson driven by an Essential Question
  3. Exhaustive lists of references from various media
  4. Rubrics for peer, group and teacher evaluation
  5. Visuals such as graphs and photos to accompany each lesson
  6. Critical thinking activities 
  7. Team building activities 
  8. Lesson assessments used as formative assessments of progress toward unit objective
  9. Summative assessments both paper and product
  10. Product analysis as evaluation success level

The Vocabulary of Project Based Learning (PBL)

The following websites provide comprehensives vocabulary lists particular to Project Based Learning.
  1. friEdTechnology: This site provides the following PBL vocabulary with definitions and usage suggestions.
     2.  Quizlet: This comprehensive list of terms has some of the words listed on friEd Technology and more.

Innovations in PBL and Technology

Further innovations and ideas and for technology applications can be found at these two sites.
  1. MindSight: How to Reinvent Project Based Learning to Be More Meaningful
  2. New Tech Network: Project-Based Learning and New Tech Network
Recommended Reading
Graphics obtained from

  • Bethany Guillon - LinkedIn
  • Edutopia

Be sure to visit Kate's TeachersPayTeachers site for lots of great PBL units.