21st Century Projects with PBLs
Although many teachers “do projects”, not all lead to learning. Learn how to plan rigorous and relevant standards-focused projects that engage students in authentic learning activities, teach 21st century skills, and demand demonstration of mastery.

What is PBL?

Problem-based learning/ Project-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered instructional strategy in which students collaboratively solve problems and reflect on their experiences. The PBL method challenges students to "learn to learn" by working collaboratively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources.

PBL is:
  • Focused on learning over doing
  • Learning is driven by challenging, open-ended problems
  • Students work in small collaborative group
  • Teachers take on the role as "facilitators" of learning
  • Development of communication, problem-solving, and self-directed learning skills
  • All learning in the class directed toward a rigorous project for an authentic audience (or at least for one outside the classroom)
  • Students working on the project throughout the project “unit” not just at the end
  • Learning centered around answering messy, complex questions without any one right answer (you can’t Google it)
  • An organic process wherein teachers and students work together towards a common goal
  • The teacher acting as a facilitator or mentor, not as the center of the universe

PBL isn’t:
  • Scripted lessons
  • Units with every day planned in detail from beginning to end
  • Assigning students projects the way you’ve always done
  • Research papers or PowerPoints (although they could be part of a PBL experience)
  • Teaching from a textbook and then assigning a project at the end of the unit or chapter
  • Doing “fun” projects that have little rigor to them
  • Extra projects that students do at home on their own time
  • Worksheets, textbooks, multiple choice tests, lectures

Parts of the above from: http://trice25.edublogs.org/2010/09/15/what-project-based-learning-is-and-what-it-isnt-pbl-series-part-3/

Why Teach with PBL?

From Bie.org:
"In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking)."

From Edutopia.org:
"Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying."

Role of the teacher in PBL?

Teacher/instructor takes on the role of a facilitator offering support, direction and guidance through the learning process rather than sharing knowledge.

10 things a teacher should do to facilitate PBL effectively:
  1. Find a hook and deliver it well. Grab the students’ imaginations and leave them with lots of questions, wanting to learn more.
  2. Set an engaging, thought provoking driving question but leave plenty of room for inquiry. If you set the driving question, let the students decide how they will answer it. Better still, let the students generate the driving question.
  3. Gather materials that the students can’t get for themselves. Nothing kills inquiry quicker than a curious kid not having any way to answer their questions.
  4. Serve as a mentor for individual students and small groups. Help them figure out how to complete their project. Help them to see themselves.
  5. Facilitate whole class discussions. When students are working in small groups or pairs for an extended period of time, there must be whole class activities as well. This maintains the learning community of the group. Use discussion protocols like socratic seminars, rotating fishbowls and the like to get everyone involved.
  6. Provide sufficient structure and support so that students don’t get stuck. Help them to plan, monitor progress, and assess their results. Keep the students focused on the big picture. Remind them often of the driving question and revisit milestone dates and final product dates daily.
  7. Help students to determine success criteria for each project. Facilitate analysis of various models that will help them to see what an end product might look like. If you feel a rubric is needed, have them create it.
  8. Provide descriptive feedback. Don’t evaluate their work in progress but give them information to help them see how to move forward. Don’t let them bog down for too long.
  9. Recruit an audience. Students should be presenting their learning to an audience outside of the classroom. Invite parents, community members, other staff members, district administrators, local university staff and students, local scientists, local business people - anyone who may have an interest in what you are doing.
  10. Allow time for reflection, for students and for yourself. Use that reflection to improve the next project for students and yourself. Listen to the students very carefully and learn from them.
From http://trice25.edublogs.org/2010/09/16/the-teachers-role-in-pbl/

Challenge of PBL

"Traditional didactic (drill and regurgitate) methods, especially when assessed by standardized tests, focus on the lowest of the cognitive skills described by Bloom's taxonomy, namely knowledge and comprehension. The problem-solving nature of PBL requires the student to additionally use the higher-level skills in application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. They just plain learn more, and learn it more completely." (http://www.teachertechforum.com/Problem-Based_Learning.html)

Bloom's Taxonomy - What is it?



Bloom's and Technology



Bloom's Taxonomy Resources

Diannekrause's Favorite Links on blooms from Diigo

PBL Resources

Project Based Learning from the Buck Institute

Project Based Learning - The Online Resource for PBL

Project Based Learning from Edutopia

Project Based Learning from the University of Delaware

PBL Do-it-Yourself from the Buck Institute (GREAT Step-by-step!)

Summarizing the Steps of PBL

Framework for 21st Century Learning