What is Project-Based Learning?

Project Based Learning is an instructional approach built upon authentic learning activities that engage student interest and motivation. These activities are designed to answer a question or solve a problem and generally reflect the types of learning and work people do in the everyday world outside the classroom.

Project Based Learning is synonymous with learning in depth. A well-designed project provokes students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline.

Project Based Learning teaches students 21 st century skills as well as content. These skills include communication and presentation skills, organization and time management skills, research and inquiry skills, self-assessment and reflection skills, and group participation and leadership skills.

Project Based Learning is generally done by groups of students working together toward a common goal. Performance is assessed on an individual basis, and takes into account the quality of the product produced, the depth of content understanding demonstrated, and the contributions made to the ongoing process of project realization.

Finally, Project Based Learning allows students to reflect upon their own ideas and opinions, exercise voice and choice, and make decisions that affect project outcomes and the learning process in general.

Combining these considerations, we define Project Based Learning as:

a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning essential knowledge and life-enhancing skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks.


The PBL-Online Approach to Successful Project Design

Although many teachers “do projects,” not all projects lead to learning. To help teachers use Project Based Learning effectively with their students (rather than simply “do projects”), PBL-Online incorporates the project design methodology developed by the Buck Institute for Education (link to www.bie.org). This methodology yields projects that meet today’s standards for accountability and teach students the academic content and the 21 st century skills they need for life success.

The BIE methodology is based on research in constructivist learning, content mastery and critical thinking, and incorporates the project management skills valued by today’s global industries. The focus is on helping students move through an inquiry process that stimulates their thinking, engages them in authentic tasks, and demands demonstration of mastery.

The BIE model aligns closely with recent youth development research and theory, and reflects current thinking about rigor, relevance, and relationship as the keys to educational reform at the secondary level. Both of these fields emphasize the importance of relationship-driven classrooms where adult mentors help students engage more deeply in the learning process and develop rigorous, positive attitudes towards academic achievement.

To learn more about PBL, please visit the Buck Institute for Education(links to www.bie.org) website. You will find: