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Project Based Learning

As far back as the early 1900s, John Dewey supported the "learning by doing" approach to education. Today, Project Based Learning (PBL) is viewed as an instructional approach for classroom activity that shifts away from teacher-centered instruction and emphasizes student-centered projects. In PBL, learning is contextual, creative, and shared. Students collaborate on meaningful projects that require critical thinking, creativity, and communication in order for them to answer challenging questions or solve complex problems. By making learning relevant to them in this way, students see a purpose for mastering state-required skills and content concepts.This way students can answer the “why are we learning this” question that leads to increased student buy-in and deeper student centered learning.  Students aren’t just assessed on their understanding of academic content, but on their ability to successfully apply that content when solving authentic problems. Through this process, project based learning gives students the opportunity to develop the real life skills required for success in today’s world.
A project is meaningful if it fulfills two criteria:
  1. Students must perceive it as personally meaningful, as a task that matters and that they want to do well.
  2. A meaningful project fulfills an educational purpose.
Well-designed and well-implemented PBL must be meaningful in both ways. This is different than learning the standards and then doing a “project” at the end. Think of PBL more as the entire meal and not just the fancy dessert!
NTN - Projects vs. PBL
With PBL, projects focus on key learning objectives and each project will include many of the following elements:
  • Entry Events or Documents that introduce a problem or relevant issue to promote buy-in
  • Driving and Essential Questions that connect to key ideas and transfer goals
  • Knows/Need to Knows/Next Steps that encourage students to access prior knowledge and identify what they need to do and learn in order to be successful
  • California Content Standards and Skills
  • Research and Inquiry
  • Essential skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and agency
  • Authentic Exploration
  • Student Choice
  • Reflection
  • Completion of key benchmarks
  • Opportunities for feedback and revision
  • 1-1 Technology integration to help engage students and increase collaboration
  • Delivery of a final product that is assessed via rubrics based on specific learning outcomes and is often public in nature


For more information on PBL, please check out the video below and here are the additional resources from the New Tech Network: