Edutopia’s PBL Resources

Introductory articles from Edutopia, whose site appears to have tons of information about PBL:


Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide

What is Project-Based Learning About? A description of what teachers can accomplish in the classroom using project-based learning.

Here is a video introduction:

Notes from the video Project Based Learning: Explained

  • Students are focused on “work that matters.”
  • Most adults live in a world of projects, whether it is a job assignment, home improvement, or planning a wedding, we need to actively solve problems.
  • School work, however, is about passively receiving information that doesn’t matter to students — as opposed to being actively involved in solving problems that matter to the student.
  • Example: an employee is tasked with finding the most earth-friendly way to produce the company’s product, soap, going forward in the future. She was given a budget and a few requirements, such as cost, time, and quality, but it was up to the employee to come up with a solution. She put together and managed a team that researched the options and created materials summarizing the issues. The team asked for feedback and then presented their findings to the boss.
  • PBL involves critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
  • In a high school setting, even though a teacher may be ‘good’ and ‘effective’, the material that has been taught is most likely forgotten the next day, presumably because the material doesn’t matter to the students personally and they have no ownership or control over their learning.
  • Example: a science teacher gets his idea for his first PBL on microorganisms when more than 1/2  of his students are absent with the flu. So, he asked his students why they thought so many students were getting sick, and that discussion produced a lot of great questions and a list of things the students wanted to know. The teacher then announced that their project was to help elementary students understand how not to get sick. The students were then divided in to teams and it was up to the students to ask questions, research, collaborate, give each other feedback, and to figure out the best way to make their points clear to children. One team chose to make an educational video; another group chose to make posters. The high school students then showed their work to the real-life audience of elementary school children and their parents.
  • The project wasn’t about memorization but rather about in-depth learning of real-life problem.

Here is a video from Edutopia:

Notes on Project-Based Learning: An Overview 

  • Seattle high school sophomore geometry students: The problem they have to solve is how do you design a state-of-the-art high school for the year 2050 on a particular site. They are in teams of 3 to 4 and are in a design competition for a contract to build it.
  • Hawaii high school students build cars and race them.
  • Hands-on real-world problems.
  • Each class chooses a problem to study for the semester.
  • The first phase that they plan is the research phase, which includes field-trips to gather information.
  • At the conclusion of the project, they share their findings in oral presentations, digital slide shows and display boards, which are viewed and critiqued by their parents and their peers.
  • Principal Peter Bender: PBL is the delivery model that his staff felt allows kids to learn about what they want to learn about. For so many years, we have been pumping kids full of stuff that we think is important, but, even though there may have been instances when this old model was successful, PBL is much more successful and exhilarating when kids have the input.
  • Students are at the centre of the learning.
  • M.I.T. Eduguru Seymour Papert: the first idea you have to give up is the idea of curriculum, which means that you are learning certain things on certain days as opposed to learning it when you need it. This puts kids in the position where they are going to use the knowledge they are getting.
  • Hawaii high school: students design several of  their own research projects, including designing functioning electric racing cars to surveying coral eco-systems. One student calls PBL ‘exciting’ compared to what she was doing before which was the traditional classroom’s four walls, lights, textbooks, desks. Her classroom is now the outdoors, ‘real life’. (Meta-Q: What does a teacher do who doesn’t live in Hawaii, who doesn’t have access to ‘coral reef eco-systems’?)
  • Bruce Alberts, President Nat’l Academy of Sciences: Students never find out about sciences. They hate it because it’s memorizing all this stuff; PBL, on the other hand, gives students a chance to mimic what scientists actually do. (Meta-question: If science students can mimic what scientists actually do, what can English students mimic?) “PBL is exciting if it’s done well.”
  • New technology is the driving force behind the PBL revolution. In a Harlem school, each student received a laptop computer. (Meta-Q: What about schools with more modest means and limitations on access to cutting-edge technology?) Technology allows students to be directors and managers of their own learning.
  • The goal is to have children collaborate with each other, to have children engage in multi-disciplinary projects that are longer, that are more complex, that is authentic and more challenging.
  • This idea of experiential learning has been around for many years, from the time of John Dewey, where students can learn knowledge by using it, and computer technology makes this possible.
  • Schools are finding creative ways to  partner with community resources and local institutions to create exciting projects: in Hawaii, a school connected with the local power company for the electric race cars, while a school in Manhattan worked with a community college for a science project.
  • Papert counters criticism about the fear of a lack of standards and of difficulties with assessment by suggesting that the idea of standardization is ‘guarantee of no standards’ because the standard he would like to see is thinking differently, is the individual having the right to explore individual interests.
  • Student: if you want to excel, there isn’t any class that can give you what you can give yourself because it is all you.
  • Papert: imagine if kids, from the beginning, could be learning by developing their interests — things they are in love with, things that they care about… Just imagine.

And another video provided by Edutopia:

A YouTube video that only gives the briefest overview of PBL, but one quotation that I did take from this video is, “The project work is central rather than peripheral to the curriculum.”

An example of PBL in a high school from the Pearson Foundation:

Here is an article from Edutopia:

logoWhy Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience

Project learning, also known as project-based learning, is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups.

Because project-based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both team-based and independent work.

In the process of completing their projects, students also hone their… 


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