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IDT 7074

Project-Based Learning
Model Resource
Ciera Carr


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Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a method of teaching that allows the student to gain
knowledge and skills through actively working on and investigating a challenge or question
(Thomas, 2000). It is based in the constructivist approach to learning (Tamim & Grant,
2013). This is done in a hands-on, student driven manner. The projects are derived from the
standards and objectives that the teacher must follow, but the students are discovering the
information for their selves with limited interruption from the teacher. School districts across
the USA are beginning to adopt curricula that follow a PBL approach with an emphasis on
developing students twenty first century skills (Rogers, Cross, Gresalfi, Trauth-Nare, & Buck,
2011). By using this method, the students are gaining valuable 21st century skills such as,
problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation
These skills are explained in depth on the Buck Institute for Education as a set of steps
that the entire process of project-based learning should go through. These steps are explained
as follows:

Significant Content is the basis of what any project idea should stem from. This

includes the teacher understanding the standards and key competencies that they want the
students to learn. If this is not done first and foremost, then there is no point in proceeding
with a project. This step gives it meaning to the students and the stakeholders looking at the
end project.

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21st Century Skills are those that were listed above. As an educator, it is most

important to prepare the students for the real world by giving them every opportunity to
develop these skills. Again, these skills most gained from this method are, problem solving,
critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation.

In-Depth Inquiry is the next part of the process. This is how the driving question

is going to be reached. Meaningful discussion and various questioning lead to the next part of
the process.

Driving Question or Challenge is the next part of the process and this is a big

component. This is where either the teacher or students choose a question or problem to try
and solve. This could come from a discussion on the subject at hand or straight from the
teacher and is open ended. This has to hook the students attention and beg for more

Need to Know is where all the information is gained. Students interest will be

peaked and knowledge will be found. The students will take the reins of the future project at
this point and develop an understanding of why they need to gain understanding of the subject.

Voice and Choice is the creative portion of the method. Students work together

to figure out how to go about solving their problem and get to have meaningful discussion
concerning the information found. The teacher stands back and is used as a guide during this
time, depending on the experience and age level of the students.

Critique and Revision is just as it sounds. The students give feedback to each

other on the many parts of the project. They work together and revise as needed.

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Public Audience is probably the most important and last step of the project-

based learning method. This is where the students show off their work. In todays education,
making learning visible is a major issue. If the students cannot demonstrate their gained
knowledge to anyone, then it is taken as they have not learned anything. This is the assessment
part of the whole process.

Project-Based Learning has made a great jump in popularity in the past 10 years, but
many do not know that it has roots way back to ancient times. Confucius and Aristotle were
first to teach that people learn by doing. This is the earliest and most simple form of projectbased learning. Ultimately, this is the forefront of what PBL is. Socrates came next and kicked
the learning by doing up a bit by adding to the doing portion. He explained that doing can mean
questioning, inquiry, and critical thinking. This is still very relevant in the classroom today. In
1918, William Kilpatrick termed to word project based learning. Jumping forward some years
comes John Dewey (cognitive constructivist). Some will say that he is the father of PBL that we
know today. This is where it was stressed that learning should not be a passive thing and that
the students should be just as active in their learning as the teacher.
Only a half a century ago did PBL become a mainstream method of teaching strategy. It
took off in the engineering and medical fields, along with others, as a way to train. They learn
practical skills by solving problems and going through simulations. This is all a way to train for
real life. PBL has finally made its way into the K-12 education field. Projects are more openended and students are more engaged in the learning process. The scientific field has
developed a lot more over the years to help find out how people learn. The stress is on hands4

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on learning. This is how people become engaged and want to take an active role in their
learning (, 2011).

Key Persons
There are many key persons when it comes to Project Based Learning. Of course the
fathers and grandfathers of the method are Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius, and John Dewey.
Jumping on the project based learning train is Jean Piaget who showed a more social
constructivist point of view. He helped bridge over to the K-12 education side of things. He
demonstrated how we learn from our experiences and how students build on these
experiences by asking questions, reflection, working with peers, and investigating what we
want to know.
Another key player in the project based learning game is Maria Montessori. She turned
learning by doing into a whole curriculum framework. Along with the work of Piaget,
Montessori wanted to show that in early childhood, the young child learns best by experiencing
the world around them and not just listening to someone about it (, 2011)

A model that seems to always get confused with project based learning is problem
based learning. It is very understandable as to why this happens; because they have many of
the same key features, some might think they are doing one method when they really are not.
Starting with the key differences of the two methods which are listed in the venn diagram

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Project Based Learning

Usually multi disciplinary
longer time frame
Follows general steps
Includes a creation of a
product or performance
Usually involves real
world tasks

Problem Based Learning

Usually single subject
Shorter in length
Follows specific steps
The product is usually
written or oral
Uses case studies or
fictious senarios

The similarities are very general to any method in which problems are being solved by
the students. Similarities of project based learning and problem based learning are that they
both focus on open ended questions, provide authentic application of skills, build those 21st
century skills, promote student lead learning, and are longer and more comprehensive than
traditional lessons.
People tend to want to use project based learning over problem based learning because
it tends to be more hands on and uses more real life situations. Also, the ending product is
more geared towards what and how the student wants to share their knowledge. This is what
makes project based learning so much more effective than other models according to Piaget
and Montessori. Since people learn better this way and are more engaged, why would a
teacher not want to try it?

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English, M. C. , & Kitsantas, A. (2013). Supporting Student Self-Regulated Learning in Problem- and
Project-Based Learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 7(2). Available at:

This article speaks about the student responsibility of using PBL. It also talks about teachers
having to be a guide and demonstrate how to guide your own learning.

Tamim, S. R. , & Grant, M. M. (2013). Definitions and Uses: Case Study of Teachers Implementing
Project-based Learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 7(2). Available at:

This article talks about a study done with inservice teachers on what their definition of PBL was
during and after using it.

Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991).
Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the
learning. Educational psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398.

This article gives general information on PBL including what a teacher needs to do in
order to make this a permanent method in the classroom.

Grant, M. M. (2002). Getting a grip on project-based learning: Theory, cases and

recommendations. Meridian: A middle school computer technologies journal, 5(1), 83.

This article discusses differences in learners when it relates to PBL.

Ayas, K., & Zeniuk, N. (2001). Project-based learning: Building communities of reflective
practitioners. Management Learning, 32(1), 61-76. doi:10.1177/1350507601321005

This article talks about the potential learning capacity of using PBL.

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Rogers, M. m., Cross, D. I., Gresalfi, M. S., Trauth-Nare, A. E., & Buck, G. A. (2011). FIRST YEAR
Of Science & Mathematics Education, 9(4), 893-917.

This article talks about how three math teachers turned their classrooms around by
using PBL.

LICHT, M. (2014). Controlled Chaos: Project-Based Learning. Education Digest, 80(2), 49-51.

This article gives general information on PBL and the pros and cons of the method which
are very interesting.

Thomas, J. W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning.

This article examines research related to PBL and tries to include all of the information that is
currently out on the subject.

Web Resources
The main resource for learning and understanding project based learning.
Gives a brief overview of PBL and also goes into the history of PBL.
Explains the seven essentials to project based learning.
A good site that give teachers resources and a checklist to help organize their projects.

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This site is good if you want to take a course on how to use PBL in the classroom. It also has many lesson
plans and resources.
A good site that gives general information on PBL and also some really good links and tutorials.
Breaks down for a teacher how to go about starting a project and what all is needed for them to do.
Great site that gives different articles about how people are using PBL and their thoughts on it.
A great site that explains what PBL is and also compares a few other methods.