Project-Based Learning Resources for Teachers

What is Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning (PBL) involves learning new concepts and skills via engagement with in-depth and long-term projects. Many examples of project-based learning take place in the context of science and social studies classes.

Projects depend on the underlying goals and range from web design to movie making, from science experiments to broad survey projects. Teachers can identify important questions or objectives and design comprehensive projects that will enable students to develop relevant skills while completing them.

When developing project-based learning experiences, teachers can consider what big ideas are most important and how a project will help students explore these ideas. Sometimes, projects develop organically over time in the context of the curriculum. Otherwise, teachers can save time and locate relevant ideas for project-based learning by exploring the many resources available online and in teaching handbooks.

Project-Based Learning Lesson Plans

A PBL lesson plan starts by pinpointing the big content and skill goals of the project and continues with activities that move students forward on that given project. For example, if you are using project-based learning for science, your lesson plan could follow this general format:

  • Begin with major learning objectives.
  • Move onto a short mini-lesson, which might be a lecture to cover a specific topic or group work to develop a skill, like collecting data.
  • Ask students to work independently or in project groups for most of the period.

The teacher's role is to circulate the room, ensuring that students are asking big questions, using resources appropriately, and completing the tasks associated with the lesson and project goals. At the end of the period, students should come together to debrief what they have worked on and to assess where each student or group is with their project.

Teachers can also use project-based learning for math, social studies, or language arts. The lesson plans will follow a similar format, just with different content goals!

Project-Based Learning Examples

To incorporate project-based learning in your classroom, think about which aspects of your curriculum will be enhanced by incorporating more projects. There is no one right example of project-based learning or its associated activities. The main goal for each project is to go beyond the surface to help your students internalize key concepts and develop meaningful skills.

  • Project-based learning in math, for example, might involve having students work in groups to develop books that prove different geometric theorems.
  • In social studies, students can design a new political system using examples from history and the contemporary world.
  • For ELA, project-based learning activities include making art portfolios in response to the work of an author, dramatizing key scenes from different genres, or writing multiple works within a genre.

The Benefits of Project-Based Learning

Students who learn in a PBL environment tend to enjoy school, take an active role in their own learning, and internalize concepts in a deep and lasting way.

In early childhood, project-based learning for preschool students helps children understand that they can take a hands-on role in their own learning. Project-based learning for kindergarten is a great way to teach children that school is fun and that the activities they do in school are authentic and meaningful. Project-based learning for first grade can often capitalize on students' new literacy and math skills and continue to develop their depth of understanding and agency over their learning.

A PBL environment can also be meaningful for special populations. For example, project-based learning for students with special needs can help capitalize on students' strengths as a way of compensating for any challenges they face. Because project-based learning is active and differentiates learning, a PBL environment is usually a very inclusive one where all students can succeed.

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