Digital Age Teaching and Learning

What is Project Based Learning?

What is Project Based Learning?

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a hands-on, exciting, real-world approach to learning. This fantastic way of learning peaks student interest and engagement while still holding high standards for knowledge and skill acquisition. How? Project Based Learning has many characteristics that make it a wonderful way for students to learn. It’s:


Projects always have a real-world application, making them very authentic. Rather than turning in assignments with no purpose, students solve real-world problems that are related to the students’ reality. Projects are the main vehicle through which learning happens, and each of these projects culminates in sharing with others outside of the classroom. Whether a garden is created for the whole school to use, letters are written to the city council or a play is presented to parents, a real-world outcome is incorporated.

Academically Rigorous

Students gain subject area knowledge and relevant skills throughout each unit of study. Teachers carefully plan each unit to meet academic standards. One popular way to achieve this is through backward planning, where teachers start by determining their end of the year or unit goals for students, and then plan how to help students reach those goals. Teachers must carefully scaffold or create stepping stones for students to progress from simpler concepts and skills to the more difficult ones in the unit.


In addition to learning content related information and skills, students also learn practical skills. An emphasis is placed on critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving. Teachers must help students gain these skills by breaking each skill down into smaller pieces. For example, students learn to work in groups by practicing different group roles or learning how to disagree respectfully.


Throughout the project, teachers adapt to what the students are doing. Students drive the lessons. Teachers, rather than providing answers and imposing learning, facilitate and guide students in their learning. Teachers must carefully observe students to determine what help or skills they are lacking and then provide instruction in these areas. In addition, they must provide suggestions and guidance for students separately. What one group or student needs is different than what another group or student may need.


PBL keeps students and teachers accountable throughout each unit. Teachers often use observations, check-ins and smaller components of a larger project as assessment tools. While exams, tests and final project deliverables may also be incorporated, students also have opportunities for revision to their work throughout the unit. Finally, students and teachers take the time to reflect on their progress and the outcomes throughout and after a unit.

What Are the Outcomes?

Project Based Learning has very positive outcomes when implemented as the main learning method in the classroom. When compared to students who are in traditional teaching programs, PBL students retain content longer and have a deeper understanding of content, are problem solvers, know how to collaborate, show improved attitudes toward learning, and also show improved critical thinking skills. These are just some of the benefits of PBL for students.

In addition to benefits to students, teachers also report improved job satisfaction. Although training and a time period of adjustment are needed for teachers to be able to implement PBL, in the end, it’s well worth it.

What do you love most about PBL?