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Project Based Learning

What is PBL?

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Essential Elements of PBL include:

  • Significant Content - At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects.

  • 21st century competencies - Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry - Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question - Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know - Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice - Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Critique and Revision - The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Audience - Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

Why PBL?

The core idea of PBL 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. 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. Advocates assert that project-based learning helps prepare students for the thinking and collaboration skills required in the workplace.

PBL creates opportunities for groups of students to investigate meaningful questions that require them to gather information and think critically. Typical projects present a problem to solve (How can we reduce the pollution in the Stanislaus River?); a phenomenon to investigate (Why do you stay on your skateboard?); a model to design (Create a scale model of the ideal school STEM Lab); or a decision to make (Should the school board vote to lengthen/shorten the school day?).

Want more info? Check out these resources:

Buck Institute for Education – link to http://bie.org/about/why_pbl

Edutopia – What is PBL?   Link to  http://www.edutopia.org/video/five-keys-rigorous-project-based-learning

Mindshift/KQED Blog  link to  http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/moving-towards-inquiry-how-to-reinvent-project-based-learning/


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