What is Project Based Learning?

 

Project Based Learning is an instructional method where students actively work for an extended period of time to investigate and solve a real-world question, problem, or challenge in order to obtain knowledge and skills.  Students work with a partner or small group to perform research, present the material they have learned in the form of a project, and obtain feedback for their learning (BIE, n.d.).  

Project based learning and problem based learning have many similarities, but also some subtle differences.  Larmer (2015) identifies these differences between project based learning and problem based learning:

  • Project based learning often incorporates many subjects. Problem based learning most often applies to one subject.
  • Project based learning may take weeks or months.  Problem based learning tends to be shorter.
  • Project based learning has many steps.  Problem based learning has specific steps.
  • Project based learning includes the creation of a product in some form.  The final product in problem based learning can be a product or a proposed solution in written form or as a presentation.
  • Project based learning uses real world scenarios and tasks.  Problem based learning uses case studies or fictitious scenarios for investigation.   

Teachers should consider incorporating project based learning into the classroom because it moves students away from using rote memorization of information to pass a test.  After memorizing information for the test, students tend to forget what they have learned.  The hands on approach of project based learning capitalizes on student interest and provides real-world scenarios in order for them to obtain skills and knowledge.  Project based learning prepares students for the real world beyond their education.  It teaches students how to think critically, collaborate with others, and effectively communicate what they have learned to a larger audience.     

The Buck Institute for Education (n.d.) includes these essential components as part of project based learning:

  • The project should be focused on student learning based on content standards and skills including critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.   
  • The project should be focused on addressing the answer to a problem, question, or challenge.
  • Students should seek answers to questions through inquiry, research, and application.
  • The projects should have real world applications.
  • Students should have a voice in the project.  They can choose how they work and what they create.  
  • Students and teachers should reflect on learning including the effectiveness of the inquiry, the project activities, the quality of work, obstacles that were encountered and how they were overcome.
  • Students should give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process or products.
  • Students should publicly display or present their project to people outside of the classroom.

 

Larmer, J. (2015, July 13). Project-based learning vs. problem-based learning vs. x-bl. In edutopia. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-vs-pbl-vs-xbl-john-larmer

What is project based learning (PBL)?. (n.d.). In BIE. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

 

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