#29 – Engage Students with Project-Based Learning

Unpacking Education March 3, 2021 26 min

PBLWorks defines project-based learning as “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.” Project-based learning (PBL) provides students with meaningful entry points to develop critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills. In this week’s episode, we unpack PBLWorks’ definition to identify strategies to bring PBL into your classroom in ways that will work for face-to-face, remote, and hybrid learning.

Join our Digital Learning Specialists as they review eight essential design elements of PBL that help teachers and students unpack complex problems and explore possible solutions. We’ll talk about how teachers can work hand-in-hand with students to define project scope, while providing guardrails, so that students have opportunities to engage in real-world problem-solving.

Below, you will find resources and tips shared during the podcast.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

Possibilities are endless wherever authentic learning is happening.


Tweet from Starr Sackstein, author


In this week’s episode, we discuss the following strategies and resources that are available on AVID Open Access for you to explore in more depth.

Explore the Many Merits of Project-Based Learning

PBL is a growth process that helps students develop stamina to solve complex problems, while honing powerful 21st century skills, such as planning, critical thinking, reasoning, creativity, and personal and social responsibility. Let’s unpack how you can scope and frame a successful project in your current classroom setting.

Eight Elements to Unpack Project-Based Learning

In this week’s podcast, we explore the following essential design elements, which are needed to create projects that help students learn to take responsibility for their own learning—a success skill that is the first step in becoming a lifelong learner.

  1. Align Learning Goals: Ensure from the outset that the project clearly aligns to your learning goals and standards, while thinking about how the challenging problem or question can be framed to engage the interest of all your students.
  2. Challenging Problem or Question: All projects start with a driving question that needs to be open-ended and allows for deep inquiry. As you begin the ideation process, consider the appropriate level of challenge for your learners.
  3. Sustained Inquiry: Plan for students to engage in an extended inquiry process that takes place over weeks, even months, where they have opportunities to pose questions, locate resources, and apply their learning.
  4. Authenticity: The project should focus on a real-world problem or concern that speaks directly to your students’ interests.
  5. Student Voice and Choice: Provide students with ample opportunities to make decisions about the project. Have them think about how they want to complete the work and what form the finished project might take. Provide space for your students to express their ideas in their own voice.
  6. Reflection: Critical to project-based learning and metacognition is planning for multiple checkpoints where students reflect on their learning process. How effective were their inquiry activities? What obstacles did they run into as they researched their project? What strategies did they use to overcome their roadblocks? What did they learn about how they choose to organize and present their solution?
  7. Critique and Revision: Provide a space for students to give, receive, and iterate on feedback to improve their problem-solving process and final product.
  8. Public Product: Celebrate the final presentation of your students’ projects. Create a public space to share projects that can include people beyond the physical (or virtual) walls of your classroom. Websites, online galleries, interactive slideshows—the possibilities are endless!