Project-Based Learning

The following are notes for a presentation on Project-Based Learning to the visiting Kufa faculty, Spring 2012.

Project-Based Learning – What is it?


Project-Based Learning is a comprehensive instructional approach to engage learners in sustained, cooperative investigation (Bransford & Stein, 1993). Project-Based Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that engages learners in complex activities. It usually requires multiple stages and an extended duration–more than a few class periods and up to a full semester. Projects focus on the creation of a product or performance, and generally call upon learners to choose and organize their activities, conduct research, and synthesize information. According to current research (Thomas, Mergendoller, & Michaelson, 1999; Brown & Campione, 1994), projects are complex tasks, based on challenging questions, that serve to organize and drive activities, which taken as a whole amount to a meaningful project. They give learners the opportunity to work relatively autonomously over extended periods of time and culminate in realistic products or presentations as a series of artifacts, personal communication, or consequential tasks that meaningfully address the driving question. PBL environments include authentic content, authentic assessment, teacher facilitation but not direction, explicit educational goals, collaborative learning, and reflection.

Constructionism is reflected in PBL by

  • creation of a student-centered learning environment
  • emphasis on artifact creation as part of the learning outcome based on authentic and real life experiences with multiple perspectives

Thus, learners are allowed to become active builders of knowledge while confronting misconceptions and internalizing content and associated conceptions.


  • Real world challenge or problem at the core
  • Curriculum Based
  • Small team organization of course
  • Multi-disciplinary/multi-skill approach to work
  • Must be a deliverable(s) at the end of the course
  • Peer evaluation and accountability as well as instructor evaluation.
  • Other considerations:
    • Journaling
    • Shared Workspace
    • Scaffolding – build skills through smaller projects that lead up to the big project.

Benefits (according to Edutopia:

  • Connecting academic learning to real-life issues and applications
  • Better retention of knowledge gained
  • Skills in pursuing individually-directed work as well as team-based work
  • Improved technology integration

Project-Based Learning by Melissa Palmer, et al.

7 components of project-based learning:

  • Learner-centered environment – feedback and continued assessment
  • Collaboration – peer feedback, pbl.
  • Integration of Content – clear goals in process AND product
  • Authentic Tasks – addresses real-world issues relevant to students’ lives and/or communities
  • Multiple Presentation Modes – multiple technologies used in the planning, preparation or presentation of project work.
  • Time Management – need time for meaningful doing and learning.
  • Innovative Assessment – ongoing, varied and frequent assessment from peers, self, instructor as well as reflection.


  • Assess student capabilities
  • Careful group building
  • Extensive structure for the course
  • Requires a lot of the students – help them develop personal time management and project management skills.

Discuss the Teacher’s Role and the Students’ Role:

  • Role of the instructor becomes that of designer and architect. You are creating the spaces in which learning emerges, but not dictating its rhythm or pattern.
  • Role of student is that of the active constructor of knowledge (constructivist theory).

Additional Resources:

Project Based Learning for the Business Environment:

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