Project-Based Learning—Key Elements of PBL

Anyone who spends much time in the education world will hear about project-based learning or PBL. This growing trend is becoming incorporated into more classrooms every day. So what’s the big deal with PBL? What does it entail, and how can it improve student learning?

We found a lot of information about project-based learning. The most succinct definition came from an article by Heather Wolpert-Gawron called What the Heck is Project-Based Learning? Her “elevator speech” answer is, “PBL is the act of learning through identifying a real-world problem and developing its solution. Kids show what they learn as they journey through the unit, not just at the end.”

What are some keys of PBL?

Solving real-world problems

In PBL, students solve authentic problems they really care about. Learning is meaningful to the student and fills an educational purpose. It’s not just something students will need to know “later in life.”

Learning happens through the project

These projects don’t come at the end of the unit, after the learning has taken place. They’re not a culminating project or an enrichment activity—the learning comes as students work on the problem to find a solution.

Student voice and choice

PBL projects are student-designed and student-led. Students choose problems to solve and questions to answer. They take responsibility to refine and revise their projects throughout the process.

Reflection, critique, feedback

In traditional learning, feedback and assessment come at the end and generally just from the teacher. In PBL, students continually reflect on and critique their projects. They receive feedback and assessment from peers and teachers during the entire project.

Public presentation

Project-based learning needs to be presented publicly. Rather than just turning in an assignment to the teacher or presenting it to the class, students present to an authentic audience. Knowing their project will be shared with more than just their teacher motivates students to do their best work.

Teacher-facilitated, student-driven

In PBL, teachers become the facilitators. Students take the driver’s seat and are responsible for moving their projects forward to completion. Teachers provide structure and help along the way, but students own their learning.

If you think project-based learning might be the change you’re looking for in your classroom, check out the links in this article for more information. And come back in a couple weeks when we share how PBL benefits students!