Frequently Asked Questions about Project Based Learning
What is Project Based Learning?
- Project Based Learning (PBL) is an inquiry based process for teaching and learning. In PBL, students focus on a complex question or problem, then answer the question or solve the problem through a collaborative process of investigation over an extended period of time. Projects often are used to investigate authentic issues and topics found outside of school. During the inquiry process, students learn content, information, and facts necessary to draw conclusions about the question. Students also learn valuable skills and habits of mind during the process.
Does Project Based Learning incorporate content and standards?
- The learning of specified subject-matter concepts and standards is at the heart of PBL. Projects begin with curriculum standards and use aligned assessments to determine what students have learned. Projects are then designed around a Driving Question that knits together intended outcomes and project activities.
How does Project Based Learning differ from problem based learning?
- PBL and problem based learning are similar, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Both are based on a method inquiry into an authentic problem or question. Problem based learning is a term more commonly used in colleges and universities, while Project Based Learning is a term used in K -12 education in the United States. Outside the United States, problem based learning or ‘project work’ is the more common term for PBL.
Is Project Based Learning effective with all kinds of students?
- PBL can be adapted to any audience of students. The methodology also allows teachers to design projects appropriate to their students’ reading levels and interests.
How long should projects last?
- The methodology can be used in projects that last a week, or ten weeks. In general, it is recommended that projects last from 2 – 6 weeks for maximum effectiveness and solid assessment.
Can other teaching methods be used along with Project Based Learning?
- Yes, PBL can incorporate all traditional teaching tools and methods, including lecture, text-books, and conventional assessments. However, the nature of PBL demands that students spend the bulk of the project actively working in groups or individually to research the question and come to conclusions. Also, the advantage of PBL is that it requires students to use specific skills, such as collaboration, teamwork, time and task management, or presentation skills, to conclude a project successfully. These skills cannot be practiced or learned through traditional transmission models of education.
Why should I use Project Based Learning?
- PBL is extremely effective as a method for engaging students in their learning. With engagement comes focus, discipline, and mastery of academic content. Further, students have the opportunity to work on problems and issues relevant to their lives, as well as learn vital work and life skills necessary to their success in school or in the work world.
I have heard projects “don’t work.” Is this true?
- Nearly all students of any age have done “projects.” But most projects are not based on a methodology designed to help teachers create a driving question or problem statement, manage students through the process of learning, or assess students.
I have heard that Project Based Learning requires too much time. Is this true?
- PBL changes the nature of the teacher planning process. PBL often requires more time before the project begins, since materials, performance assessments, and activities must be mapped out before the project begins. Once the project begins, however, teachers often find that their time is spent working closely with students, rather than preparing new lessons.
The George Lucas Educational Foundation Website www.glef.org
The Buck Institute for Education Website www.bie.org