What Is Project-Based Learning?

Written by Dan

In recent years, project-based learning (PBL) has steadily gained traction in the educational arena. It provides teachers with an opportunity to break free from a tedious cycle of standardized testing prep and allows them to offer their students engaging, hands-on experiences. But what is PBL all about? Here’s an overview for those looking for more information on this exciting approach!

What is project-based learning?


Project-based learning allows students to develop knowledge and skills through hands-on projects that take weeks, months, or even an entire semester. Enabling kids to choose meaningful topics they are passionate about ensures their involvement in the process from start to finish.

Together as one considerable collective effort or on individual levels, this strategy equips them with significant problem-solving and critical thinking skills while fostering collaboration among peers.

Project Based Learning (PBL) is an intuitive approach to learning that enhances our knowledge and skills and develops high-level abilities such as critical thinking, collaboration and communication, and problem-solving.

Through hands-on projects, students can better understand the topic by making personal connections to the content learned in class.

PBL mimics working adults more than traditional schooling because students collaborate with people outside their school community, leading to outcomes with real potential for impacting the world beyond education’s walls.

PBL or Traditional Projects?


School projects are an excellent way for students to exercise their creativity and hone their skills, but the outcomes of those activities go unnoticed beyond the teacher’s desk. Unfortunately, this means that these efforts might never be truly appreciated or have an impact on society at large.

For example, a history teacher may assign pupils an end-of-semester project to showcase their acquired knowledge. They can select any relevant topic to the studied era, develop a presentation, draft a paper, or even create a video.

These projects are commonly designed only for educators’ evaluation; they don’t usually require young people to collaborate with external partners in real life.

Project-based learning is truly an immersive experience where the project reigns as king. Think of it this way: students are granted real-world experiences that offer opportunities to grow in various areas. The best part?

They must decide what they need to learn and how to do so on their own! In addition, collaboration with various local or worldwide community members brings about valuable partnerships for all involved parties.

And finally, once complete, these projects get presented publicly (not just within the class) – allowing kids to showcase their achievements proudly!

PBL Examples

Interested in what project-based learning looks like? Here are three real-world examples that will illustrate the concept.

  • Kids Build a Playground – the empowering project proves that Project-Based Learning isn’t just for older students. This remarkable program has seen young minds turn an empty lot into their dream playground by engaging kindergarteners with brainstorming, research and community collaboration!
  • As Soil Superheroes, these middle schoolers have investigated soil quality and constructed informational pamphlets to be distributed around their community at garden centres and other areas.
  • Investing in the Community: Students work hard to figure out how their $25 can benefit the most people. By persuading generous investors, they can procure enough capital for these projects and make them a reality!

What are the benefits of project-based learning?


Numerous analyses have documented the remarkable benefits of PBL, and educators are extolling its efficacy in their classrooms.

  • Through authentic learning, students recognize the practicality of their knowledge and skills, inspiring them to learn more deeply and remember what they’ve known for longer.
  • Project-Based Learning (PBL) motivates students to explore multiple learning methods, attempting different approaches to gather the required knowledge to resolve issues and meet their project objectives.
  • When learners take control of their education and set out to accomplish tangible objectives with real-world significance, their enthusiasm for the subject material often reaches an unprecedented level. Compared to obtaining a passing grade on an exam, achieving practical goals through hands-on learning can be incredibly rewarding and gratifying in ways that would otherwise remain untapped.
  • By engaging in project-based learning, your students can strengthen their higher-level thinking skills and develop their ability to appraise problems with a critical eye. Subsequently, they will be able to devise inventive solutions that are effective and workable!
  • Communication is critical, and students can hone their skills by connecting with professionals or community members necessary to succeed on their project—this type of communication mirrors what they will employ in the real world.
  • Through peer interaction or individual efforts, children gain access to essential skills, helpful knowledge and resources from their peers and grown-ups in the community. High-level collaboration gives them a competitive advantage!

PBL Issues

A switch from traditional teaching to project-based learning can be intimidating for many students, as they must become their educators. However, this can be a manageable task; with the proper guidance and know-how, any student can successfully navigate it!

Here are some of the most common pitfalls that might arise throughout project-based learning – along with tips for how best to avoid them.

  • When presented with seemingly limitless options, some students may feel overpowered and unable to choose. Others might express that they have no ideas or interests. To aid these learners, further guidance is necessary to promote creativity and spark inspiration.
  • To ensure that every student has a chance to be successful in Project-Based Learning, schools need to provide ample time during the school day for students to work on their projects and seek help from teachers if needed. Allowing adequate time allows kids to explore, create and engage more with meaningful learning experiences. As such, we highly recommend allocating enough hours throughout the week so that each kid can progress on their respective project(s).
  • Crafting a reliable method to measure the quality of learning is an intricate task, mainly when each student (or group) contributes distinct deliverables. Teachers must think beyond tests and written papers to assess their students’ achievements in depth and value.
  • The success of many PBL initiatives often requires the support of the local community. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for students to find appropriate partners and mentors. To make this process easier, emphasizing projects with tangible solutions relevant to the needs of your surrounding community can help spark interest from adults willing to collaborate on student-led endeavours.
  • Gaining independence is a significant aspect of the educational journey, and most students are accustomed to teachers setting goals and deadlines. They need to build self-discipline by creating plans with precise objectives to finish tasks successfully within an established timeline.

Getting Started With PBL


Stay calm if all of this sounds amazing yet a bit intimidating! PBL has become incredibly sought-after in schools; thus, plenty of resources are available to assist you with its implementation.

Project-Based Learning Implementation Guide

  • Edutopia has created an indispensable guide for any project, outlining the six essentials to success:
  • 1. Draft an Essential Question
  • 2. Develop a Plan
  • 3. Plot out a Schedule
  • 4. Keep Track of Student Progress
  • 5. Assess Your End Result
  • 6. Evaluate

Project-based learning is an invaluable tool for providing students with the skills and resources they need to become successful in their education, career, and life.

It encourages deep thinking, collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving – all of which are essential for today’s global world.

With ample guidance from teachers and mentors, project-based learning can give students a competitive advantage and help them become independent, successful learners.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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