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Project and Problem Based Learning. John Henry EIRC Objectives. Know what Project and Problem Based Learning is and why it is used. Understand the basic process of PBL Do an engagement activity

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project and problem based learning
Project and Problem Based Learning


  • Know what Project and Problem Based Learning is and why it is used.
  • Understand the basic process of PBL
  • Do an engagement activity
  • Brainstorm ideas for a PBL lesson or transition an existing lesson to a PBL activity
pbl framework







what does the research say about pbl
What does the research say about PBL?

A three-year 1997 study of two secondary schools -- one that used open-ended projects and one that used more traditional, direct instruction -- found striking differences in understanding and standardized achievement data in mathematics.

what does the research say about pbl1
What does the research say about PBL?

The study by Jo Boaler, at Stanford University, found that students at a project-based school did better than those at the more traditional school both on math problems requiring analytical or conceptual thought and on those considered rote, that is, those requiring memory of a rule or formula.

Three times as many students at the project-based school received the top grade achievable on the national examination in math.

what does the research say about pbl2
What does the research say about PBL?

In a five-year study, researchers at SRI International found that technology-using students in Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project-Based classrooms outperformed non-technology-using students in communication skills, teamwork, and problem solving.

what does the research say about pbl3
What does the research say about PBL?

The Center for Learning in Technology researchers, led by Bill Penuel, found increased student engagement, greater responsibility for learning, increased peer collaboration skills, and greater achievement gains by students who had been labeled low achievers.

what does the research say about pbl4
What does the research say about PBL?

Students from Multimedia Project classrooms outperformed comparison classrooms in all three areas scored by researchers and teachers: student content, attention to audience, and design. The Multimedia Project involves completing one to four interdisciplinary multimedia projects a year that integrate real-world issues and practices.

what does the research say about pbl5
What does the research say about PBL?

Alternative school offers unique curriculum, project-based learning Lakeview School in Ill., use PBL to reach students who are struggling in traditional schools by implementing a curriculum that is based on "doing things based on real world situation." The alternative Global Citizenship Experience School combines many core subjects – while addressing state standards -- and uses a project-based approach that incorporates cultural awareness, sustainability and other themes. Chicago Tribune

what does the research say about pbl6
What does the research say about PBL?

Data show project-based learning may help boost achievement: Anecdotal evidence has long supported the notion that project-based learning can deepen learning for students and help them gain skills they need for college and careers,

what does the research say about pbl7
What does the research say about PBL?

Envision Schools founder Bob Lenz writes in this blog post. But a new report finds that 12th-grade students who were taught a project-based economics curriculum outscored a control group on standardized tests, and their teachers were reportedly more satisfied with the material, Lenz notes. Lenz's blog (9/30)


Lecture…Sit and Get


Average Retention Rates




In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning.

During the 1990's a new group of cognitive psychologist, lead by Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom's), updated the taxonomy reflecting relevance to 21st century work.


Bloom's Taxonomy

New Version

Old Version


Always think outside the box



Creatively Speaking, Part Two:

Sir Ken Robinson on the Power of the Imaginative Mind


PBL for Teachers wiki

what do you know about pbl
What do you know about PBL?
  • What is Project and Problem Based Learning?
  • Why do PBL?
  • Common Features of Project Based Learning
  • Benefits and Obstacles of PBL
  • What are the Differences and Similarities of Project and Problem Based Learning
  • What are Student and Teacher roles when doing PBL?

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 and in groups to construct their own learning, culminates in realistic, student generated products.

Buck Institute for Education


Problem-Based Learning Defined

Finkle and Torp (1995) state that "problem-based learning is a curriculum development and instructional system/process that simultaneously develops both problem solving strategies and disciplinary knowledge bases and skills by placing students in the active role of problem solvers confronted with an ill-structured problem that mirrors real-world problems"



Learning as an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current or past knowledge. Students continually build upon what they have already learned.

product or process
Product or Process?

Ms, McIntyre introduced a “project” to her students. She plopped a packet of papers on each student’s desk and explained that each student would create a poster about water-borne bacterium and how it can be harmful to humans. The packet included

assignment sheets with due dates and grading policy, a guide for designing the poster, and a list of websites and books to use.


PBL is not…

Giving students a project, that is hands-on, with step by step instructions, designed and guided by the teacher that results in a student produced product. This process is missing student voice and choice, and may not be authentic or relevant

redesign this project
Redesign this Project

Ms, McIntyre introduced a “project” to her students. She plopped a packet of papers on each student’s desk and explained that each student would create a poster about water-borne bacterium and how it can be harmful to humans. The packet included assignment sheets with due dates and grading policy, a guide for designing the poster, and a list of websites and books to use.


Problem based learning provides opportunities for students to

examine and try out what they know

Students discover what they need to learn


Develop team building and people skills for achieving higher performance in group settings

Improve communication skills

engage the student and the achievement will follow
Engage the Student and the Achievement will Follow

Achievement Gap or Engagement Gap?

85% of Middle and High School Students report being bored in their classrooms


Problem Solving

Example of Engagement Activity

Toxic Popcorn

What’s your Game

Interest, hands-on, interactive and collaborative

toxic popcorn
Toxic Popcorn


A can of highly toxic popcorn has contaminated a circle of approximately 4 feet in diameter. The toxic area extends to the ceiling. If the toxic popcorn is not transferred to a safe container for decontamination, it will contaminate the region The popcorn is estimated to have a safe life of exactly 15 minutes before it explodes. It’s up to you to save the day!



Inside the circle you will find two cans. One

(unsafe container) is half full of the toxic

popcorn. The other (safe) container is available for decontamination. Find a way to collaboratively to safely transfer the toxic popcorn from the unsafe container to the safe container, using only the materials provided to you.



  • No one may cross the plane of the circle with any part of the body.
  • Only the ropes & tire tube may cross the plane of the circle.
  • No spills are allowed, or the popcorn will explode.
  • You may use only the materials provided.
  • The popcorn must be transferred with in 20 minutes or there will be a disaster. 

Why Do PBL?

Think critically and be able to analyze and solve complex, real-world problems

Find, evaluate, and use appropriate learning resources

Work individually and cooperatively in teams and small groups

Demonstrate versatile and effective communication skills, both verbal and written

Use content knowledge and develop skills to become life-long learners in order to succeed in a global economy


Students Deserve it

The World Demands it

why do pbl
Why Do PBL?

The National Problem:

As a result of a relative decline in student achievement … and interest of students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM)-related careers …

the United States IS AT RISK.

why do pbl1
Why Do PBL?
  • In the US only 15% of the undergraduates receive their degrees in natural sciences or engineering.
  • Past 3 years alone, China & India have doubled production of 3- and 4-year degrees in engineering, computers science and IT, while the US production of engineers is stagnant and CS and IT have doubled.

Losing Interest

why do pbl2
Why Do PBL?
  • In 2003, US 15 years olds ranked 24th out of 40 countries that participated in an exam that assessed students abilities to apply mathematical concepts to real world problems
  • 56% of engineering PhDs in the US are awarded to foreign-born students.
why do pbl3
Why Do PBL?
  • Although US fourth graders score well against international competition, they fall near the bottom or dead last by 12th grade in Mathematics and Science, respectively.
  • In 2004 chemical companies closed 70 facilities in the United States and have tagged 40 more for shutdown. Of 120 new chemical plants around the world 1 will be in the United States. 50 will be in China.
framework for 21st century learning
Framework for 21st Century Learning


The standard includes six strands, which reflect the

  • Framework for 21st Century Learning:
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Collaboration, Teamwork, and Leadership
  • Cross-Cultural Understanding and Interpersonal
  • Communication
  • Communication and Media Fluency
  • Accountability, Productivity, and Ethics
  • Understanding by Design UbD template (lesson plan development)

21st Century Themes

Global Awareness

Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy

Civic Literacy

Health Literacy


Students engage in real world issues where students define and solve problems that are meaningful to them.

PBL usually begins with a Scenario

They begin to Brainstorm and ask questions


Students learn and practice team building and social skills by working in cooperative teams and sometimes with people in the community


Students use critical thinking, planning skills, problem solving skills, and research in order to solve the problem.


Students apply skills based on a specific content area in a variety of ways as they work on the project.


Gives students practice in a variety of skills that they will be able to use in future careers or during their adult lives such as responsibility, leadership, and problem solving.


It usually ends with a product or presentation that demonstrates learning and is assessed.


Includes expectations for the project, based on the learning outcome. These are stated at the beginning of the project and are linked to state standards.

pbl benefits

PBL Benefits

Problem-based learning encourages students to take control and become active in their learning.

Research tends to suggest that when compared to graduates from a traditional program, PBL graduates are better prepared for professional life with advanced level interpersonal skills, the ability to work effectively in cross and interdisciplinary teams and lifelong learning skills.

As more PBL graduates make their way into the workforce the reputation of PBL will grow and it is likely that employers could show preference for graduates with the types of knowledge, skills and attitudes developed and encouraged by problem-based learning

pbl benefits1
PBL Benefits

PBL learners become:

  • proactive thinkers
  • critical thinkers
  • problem solvers
  • capable of self-assessment
  • self-sufficient and self-motivated
  • able to find and use appropriate resources
  • technologically advanced
  • leaders as well as team players
  • capable of communicating ideas and listening to others
  • eager to jump into the next challenge or problem situation
obstacles described by teachers
Obstacles Described by Teachers
  • It takes a lot of preparation time
  • We don't have the resources
  • We lack administrative support and support from other teachers
  • You often feel uneasy because you're not knowledgeable about the content
  • The open-ended, no right or wrong answer aspect of project work can be threatening
obstacles described by teachers1
Obstacles Described by Teachers
  • Administrators can fault you for not covering the curriculum
  • There are risks associated with giving up teacher control
  • Students may not participate and are not always self-motivated
obstacles described by teachers2
Obstacles Described by Teachers
  • students may have difficulty with higher order thinking or open-ended problems
  • There is a risk that students might not learn much, or receive much of value from Problem Based Learning unless designed right
benefits described by students
Benefits Described by Students
  • We got to choose what to work on.
  • We learned that we can make a difference
  • There was a clear goal that was a challenge to work on
  • There was an audience for the product and we knew we had to meet the deadline and present it to the audience.
benefits described by students1
Benefits Described by Students
  • We weren't afraid to try things we didn't know because the teacher said we would have the opportunity to reevaluate and try again.
  • Everyone felt needed and had a part. Nobody got left out
  • We didn't need to use our texts, and we were actively doing things and learning something.
benefits described by students2
Benefits Described by Students
  • We were using skills we knew we would need in our jobs, like using time wisely, exercis­ing responsibility, and not letting the group down.
  • We learned that when the real world is the source of evaluation, you had better have your act together.
  • Yes, enjoyed it, felt like I had more responsibility.
benefits described by students3
Benefits Described by Students
  • I liked it, got a lot of ideas out, but did need some guidance some times.
  • Like the idea of going off on our own to research everything possible instead of being limited by teacher specification.
benefits described by students4
Benefits Described by Students
  • Communicating with outside sources, and making contacts for information.
  • How to communicate and work with the corporate world, make contacts. How to write, how to work with other people in groups
  • How to be a leader.
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.
pbl vs pbl
  • Similarities
  • Both deal with a motivating prompt, a question or problem, that has to be addressed by creating a solution or product.
  • Each is a valid instructional strategy that promotes active learning and engages students.

Teacher and Student Role in PBL.

The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience.


Teacher and Student Role in PBL.

Students are at the center of the work to be accomplished. The classroom environment is student centered, not teacher directed. Students are responsible for brainstorming, solving problems, working together, documenting, evaluating their progress and presenting their findings.


The core idea of Project and Problem 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.


Using your classroom, the school or the local community as a context for learning, write your own PBL Scenario


1. Background Information

2. Student Relevance

3. Scenario

  • PBL for Teachers
  • Seymour Papert: Project-Based Learning. Inside a state juvenile correctional facility
  • Project Based Learning from Educational Leadership
  • Global Perspectives -
  • Exploring the Environment
  • Project InSTEP Teacher Instructional Designs
  • PBL Essentials
  • PBL in Math
  • PBL Clearinghouse
  • Project and Problem Based Learning