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PROJECT-BASED LEARNING. WHAT IS PROJECT-BASED LEARNING?. … is Academically Rigorous. PBL engages students in complex, real-world problem solving…. … is Relevant. PBL. … uses Active Learning. WHAT IS PROJECT-BASED LEARNING?.

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… is Academically Rigorous

PBL engages students in complex,

real-world problem solving…

…is Relevant


…uses Active Learning



Project Based Learning is a teaching and learning model that focuses on the central concepts and principles of a discipline, involves students in problem solving and other meaningful tasks, allows students to work autonomously to construct their own learning, culminates in realistic, student generated products.



The defining features of the Project Based Learning model are:

  • The project work is central rather than peripheral
  • Students are accountable for themselves and their peers
  • The work is related to the world outside the classroom
  • Contextualized learning for an In-depth exploration of
  • important topics
  • Frequent opportunities for feedback so they learn from
  • experience
  • Impact on the hard to teach “life skills” and “process skills”
pbl framework








6 A’s


simultaneous outcomes












Adapted from the work of Art Costa and BenaKallick

backward design process
Backward Design Process
  • Begin with the End in Mind
    • Develop a project idea
    • Decide the scope of the project
    • Select standards
    • Incorporate simultaneous outcomes
    • Work from project design criteria
    • Create the optimal learning environment
  • Craft Driving Questions
backward design process1
Backward Design Process
  • Plan the assessment
  • Create a balanced assessment plan
    • Align to products and outcomes
    • Know what to assess
    • Use rubrics

-- Ongoing

purposes of assessment
  • Help students become aware of areas of need
  • Formative -- help students along the way, ongoing
  • Proof of learning, growth
  • Feedback helps create better product/project
  • Opportunity to test depth of understanding
  • Helps to define lesson design and performance
  • Helps teachers determine what to reteach
  • Allows for natural adult connections
  • Helps to share the workload
  • Checkpoint for integration
balanced assessment


    • Tests
    • Product assessments
    • Performance assessments
    • Self-Reports
backward design process2
Backward Design Process
  • Map the Project
    • Organize tasks and activities
    • Decide how to launch the project
    • Gather resources
    • Draw a “Storyboard”
    • Plan an engagement activity
  • Manage the Process
    • Share project goals with students
    • Use problem-solving tools
    • Use checkpoints and milestones
    • Plan for evaluation and reflection
step 1 develop a project idea
Step 1. Develop a Project Idea


  • Work backward from a topic.
  • Use your standards.
  • Find projects and ideas on the Web.
  • Map your community
  • Match what people do in their daily work.
  • Tie the project to local and national events.
  • Focus on community service.
step 2 define scope of project
Step 2. Define scope of project.
  • Duration
  • Breadth
  • Technology
  • Outreach
  • Partnership
  • Audience
step 3 student autonomy
Step 3. Student Autonomy
  • Who selects the topic?
  • Who defines the learning outcomes?
  • Does the teacher solicit student input?
  • Do the student and teacher negotiate learning outcomes?
  • Who defines the products and activities?
  • Who controls the timeline and pace of the project?
step 4 select standards
Step 4. Select Standards

What do you want your students to know and be able to do?

  • Identify the key standards that you believe might best be met through project based instruction.
  • No more than 3 standards per subject is best in shorter projects. Adjust accordingly for interdisciplinary or longer-term projects. Include at least one literacy outcome in your project.
  • Do not plan for outcomes you cannot assess. Be clear about the standards that will be assessed and how the products will allow each student to demonstrate their learning.
step 5 simultaneous outcomes
Step 5. Simultaneous Outcomes
  • Teachers incorporate more than academic outcomes into classroom activities
    • Specific skills (being able to work in groups, manage projects, meet deadlines, present information, think critically, solve problems, use technology efficiently)
    • Habits of mind (curiosity, flexibility, perseverance)
step 6 project design criteria
Step 6. Project Design Criteria

The Six A’s

  • Authenticity
  • Academic Rigor
  • Applied Learning
  • Active Exploration
  • Adult Connections
  • Thoughtful Assessment Practices
optimal learning environment
Optimal Learning Environment
  • Give your project one or more connections beyond the classroom walls (partnerships, electronic linkages with distant people, mentorships)
  • Alter the look and feel of your classroom (partition room for group spaces; make the classroom like an office or laboratory)
optimal learning environment1
Optimal Learning Environment

Three Ideas for improving learning:

  • See the whole before practicing the parts.
  • Study content and apply it to authentic problems.
  • Make schoolwork more like real work.
step 7 project design
Step 7. Project Design

Does the project

  • Meet standards?
  • Engage students?
  • Focus on essential understanding?
  • Encourage higher-level thinking?
  • Teach literacy and reinforce basic skills?
  • Allow all students to succeed?
  • Use clear, precise assessments?
  • Require the sensible and appropriate use of technology?
  • Address authentic and real world issues?
today s students are digital natives
Today’s Students are Digital Natives

Conventional Twitch Speed


Step-by-Step Random Access

Linear Processing Parallel Processing

Text First Graphics First

Work-Oriented Play-Oriented

Stand-alone Connected

similarities between project based and problem based learning
Similarities Between Project Based and Problem Based Learning
  • Both instructional strategies are intended to engage students in authentic, "real world" tasks to enhance learning.
  • Students are given open-ended projects or problems with more than one approach or answer, intended to simulate professional situations.
  • Both approaches are student-centered and the teacher acts as facilitator or coach.
  • Students work in cooperative groups for extended periods of time
  • In both approaches, students seek out multiple sources of information.
  • There is often a performance-based assessment.
differences between project based and problem based learning
Differences Between Project Based and Problem Based Learning
  • In Project based learning, the students define the purpose for creating an end product.
  • In Problem based learning, the students are presented with a problem to solve.
  • In Project based learning, the students present their conclusion and there is an end product.
  • In Problem based learning, when the students present their conclusion, there may or may not be an end product.

An education company has asked for your help to create an activity with the following materials. 20 pieces of paper, 4 paper clips, 10 inches of tape and a tennis ball. The activity should include 21st Century Skills and other content areas. Work in groups of 3 to 5. You have 20 minutes to complete and present

your group results.


You have been given 20 pieces of paper, 4 paper clips and 10 inches of tape.

Your group is to build the highest paper tower possible that will support a tennis ball for 10 seconds when placed on top. The structure is to be free standing and cannot touch any other object that would aid in support. The tape is also not to be used to attach the tower to any other object. One final objective for your group is to make connections to STEM content areas relating to this activity. You have 20 minutes to complete.


Example of a Problem Based Learning Method

Present the Problem, Scenario, or Situation

Define problem statement

List what is known

List what is unknown, or needed to know

List what is needed to be done: Action Plan, who will do what and why

Gather and analyze information (Dynamic Governance)

Present Findings

crafting the driving question
Crafting the Driving Question

When crafting the Driving Question, remember:

  • Driving Questions are provocative.
  • Driving Questions are open-ended.
  • Driving Questions go to the heart of a discipline or topic.
  • Driving Questions are challenging.
  • Driving Questions can arise from real-world dilemmas that students interesting.
  • Driving Questions are consistent with curricular standards and frameworks.
a project learning classroom is
A Project Learning Classroom is ...
  • Project-centered
  • Open-ended
  • Real-world
  • Student-centered
  • Constructive
  • Collaborative
  • Creative
  • Communication- focused
  • Research-based
  • Technology- enhanced
  • 21st Century friendly
  • Hard, but fun!
project learning is skill based
Project Learning is Skill-Based

To learn collaboration –

work in teams

To learn critical thinking –

take on complex problems

To learn oral communication –


To learn written communications –


project learning is skill based1
Project Learning is Skill-Based

To learn technology –

use technology

To develop citizenship –

take on civic and global issues--

Service Learning

To learn about careers –

do internships

To learn content –

research and do all of the above

students develop needed skills in
Students Develop Needed Skills in
  • Information Searching & Researching
  • Critical Analysis
  • Summarizing and Synthesizing
  • Inquiry, Questioning and Exploratory Investigations
  • Design and Problem-solving
in a project learning classroom
In a project learning classroom

The teacher’s role is one of coach, facilitator, guide, advisor, mentor…

not directing and managing all student work.

culminating products examples
Culminating Products Examples
  • Research papers
  • Report to school staff or authentic audience
  • Multimedia shows
  • Presentations at school-wide assemblies
  • Exhibitions in the school or community
  • Websites
  • Public service announcements

Mark Swiger

Marshall County Schools, WV

John Henry