What are the elements of Project-Based Learning? How does it work?
There is a lot of creativity and flexibility built in to project-based learning, both for teachers and for students. There are also elements that all great project-based learning experiences have in common. For one, project-based learning experiences happen over a significant period of time - enough time for students to engage deeply with the challenging problem or question. This can be as short as a week, or as long as a whole school year. The following checklist from PBL Works, identifies other essential elements of high-quality PBL.
What do we want students to learn through PBL?
Project-based learning is different than asking students to complete a project, such as a poster or diorama, at the end of a lesson or unit. Through project-based learning, students deepen their learning of subjects like math, English, science, social studies, and electives while also learning real world success skills like collaboration, critical-thinking, and creativity. When students are learning both academic content and real world skills while exploring an interesting question or challenge, the result is sometimes referred to as "Main Course PBL", while the more common definition of school projects is referred to as "Dessert Projects". For more information about how students learn both academic subjects and real world skills through project-based learning, click the button below.
How do we know students are learning through PBL?
The things that students create during PBL (products), and how they work by themselves and with others to create these things (process), provide the best evidence that they've met the learning goals. Student products can be videos, presentations, infographics, writing, drawings, exhibits, or some combination of these products, and are best when they have an authentic audience outside the classroom.
Teachers work together and with students to define what successful and authentic learning looks like and sounds like using tools such as rubrics, student work samples, and conversations. They create checkpoints for students throughout the course of a project-based learning experience. At each checkpoint, and at other times, students receive feedback and are asked to reflect on their learning. Below are some student work samples from recent PBL experiences.