A Taste of PBL A brief introduction to Project Based Learning

PBL Activity

Addressing Food Deserts in Miami

A food desert is described as an area where “low-income families have little access to affordable food sites and grocery stores that carry nutritious food.”

Residents of these neighborhoods do not own automobiles, nor are they at a walking distance from larger grocery stores that offer healthy options such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Often, they rely on corner markets and convenience stores, which are close by, but which have a very limited selection of healthy, natural foods. The neighborhood of Little Haiti has been identified as a food desert.

Your Project

Design a solution that will allow the people of Little Haiti to have access to healthy, natural foods while addressing these key areas:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. What areas of background research will you focus on?
  3. What stakeholders will you consult with, and how?
  4. What do you think you can deliver?

Reference: Orellana, Lauren. (2018, September 25). Food deserts in Miami. Retrieved from: https://caringformiami.org/food-deserts-in-miami/

Reflective Discussion

What is Project Based Learning?

According to the Buck Institute Gold Standard, a PBL project will contain...

PBL in Film & Music Business

What do Employers Want?

According to AACU, the Top Ten Things Employers Look for in New College Graduates are...
  1. The ability to work well in teams—especially with people different from yourself.
  2. An understanding of science and technology and how these subjects are used in real-world settings.
  3. The ability to write and speak well.
  4. The ability to think clearly about complex problems.
  5. The ability to analyze a problem to develop workable solutions.
  6. An understanding of global context in which work is now done.
  7. The ability to be creative and innovative in solving problems.
  8. The ability to apply knowledge and skills in new settings.
  9. The ability to understand numbers and statistics.
  10. A strong sense of ethics and integrity.

These are the same skills developed through PBL.

PBL in Science

PBL is a strategic priority for the college and is included in the MDC Strategic Plan Priority for Academic and Student Success (PASS)

Project-based learning (PBL) is an evidence-based high impact teaching practice that enhances student learning & success.

Overview of PBL at MDC

PBL engages students with real-world problems or questions (local to global) and challenges them to share findings or propose solutions.

Problems investigated are rooted in the curriculum and may require students to apply knowledge and/or skills from more than one discipline.


Projects may take place over several class sessions or last the entire semester; they can also extend beyond one semester or course.


Students work in teams under the guidance of a professor. In the process, students develop critical, creative, and practical thinking as well as communication skills.


Student work is self directed and culminates in sharing a public product in the classroom or beyond.

PBL vs. Lecture

PBL students consistently outperform students in traditional lecture-based courses on long-term retention. This is especially true among minority students (McMurtrie, 2019).

Research studies demonstrate the advantages of PBL over traditional instruction in preparing students for real-world challenges ( Hung, Jonassen, and Rude, 2007)

Retention & Completion

Studies reveal a positive correlation between PBL and retention and completion in community colleges (Doppelt, Mehalki, Schunn, Silk, and Krysinski, 2008).

Student Assessment

Although students, when asked, reported more learning through traditional lectures, when assessed, they actually learned more when taking part in active-learning strategies like PBL (Reuell, 2019).

Developmental & Future Success

Studies have shown a positive impact of PBL courses among students enrolled in developmental courses, both in level of learning and grades in subsequent college-level courses (Dierker et al, 2018).

I want to learn more!

MDC Resources:

  1. Learning Resources (Faculty Librarians and Writing Tutors)
  2. Access Services
  3. iCED (Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy)
  4. EEI (Earth Ethics Institute)
  5. Impact Teams

Join us for the upcoming PBL Workshop Series in the Fall of 2020!

  1. Introduction to PBL
  2. Managing Groups
  3. PBL Course (Project) Design

Upcoming workshops (Date TBD)

  1. PBL Tools and Resources
  2. Evaluating Students' Work

Open Discussion


Dierker, Lisa, Robertson, Jane, Singer-Freeman, Karen, Woods, Kristin , Zupkus, Janet, Arnholt, Alan, Moliski, Elizabeth, Deckard, Natalie, Gallagher, Kristel, Rose, Jennifer. (2018). Project-based learning in introductory statistics: Comparing course experiences and predicting positive outcomes for students from diverse Educational Settings. International Journal of Educational Technology and Learning. [PDF file] Retrieved from: https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/wp.wpi.edu/dist/e/220/files/ 2019/12/CPBL_Briefs_2019_MinorityServingInstitutions.pdf

Doppelt, Yaron, Mehalik, Matthew, Schunn, Christian, Silk, Eli, Krysinski, Denis. (2008). Engagement and achievements: A case study of design-based learning in a science context. Journal of Technology Education (19). Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229088018_Engagement_and_Achievements_A_Case_Study_of_Design-Based_Learning_in_a_Science_Context

Hung, Woei , Jonassen, David H. , and Rude, Liu. (2007). Problem-based learning. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (38) Retrieved from: https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203880869.ch38

Kuh, George D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. [PDF file] Retrieved from: https://provost.tufts.edu/celt/files/High-Impact-Ed-Practices1.pdf

McMurtrie, Beth. (2019). No textbooks, no lectures, and no right answers. Is this what higher education needs? Chronicle of Higher Education, 65 (22). Retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/No-Textbooks-No-Lectures-and/245640

Musa, Faridah, Mufti, Norlaila, Abdul Latiff, Rozmel, Mohamed Amin, Maryam. (2012). Project-based Learning (PjBL): Inculcating soft skills in 21st century workplace. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences (59). Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257716795_Project-based_Learning_PjBL_Inculcating_Soft_Skills_in_21st_Century_Workplace/citation/download

Reuell, Peter. (2019) Lessons in learning: Study shows students in ‘active learning’ classrooms learn more than they think. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved from: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/09/study-shows-that-students-learn-more-when-taking-part-in-classrooms-that-employ-active-learning-strategies/


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