Project – based learning

Project-based learning is a teaching method where students gain and apply skills by working on a long project where they complete an in-depth inquiry into a specific topic or question.

What do we need for Project-based Learning?

 The following components are needed for a project to be considered Project-based learning:

·  Significant Content – At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects.

·  21st century competencies – Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.

·  In-Depth Inquiry – Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.

·  Driving Question – Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.

·  Need to Know – Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.

·  Voice and Choice – Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.

·  Critique and Revision – The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.

·  Public Audience – Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

Choose a topic that will inspire your students

 The most important part of PBL is choosing a topic that your students will be interested in. You can choose a general category (animals) or zoom in on a specific topic (penguins). It’s up to you! Keep an eye on your class for a few weeks to figure out what they’re interested in.

    What type of books do they check out?

    What do they talk about in class and at recess?

    What games do they play at recess?

    What items do they decorate their binders with?

Know the elements

It’s important to be prepared with some questions on the main elements of PBL.

  • Topic- What topic is your project based around?
  • Content- What do you want your students to learn about the topic? What materials will they use?
  • Driving Question- What overall question do you want students to answer?
  • Inquiry & Choice- How will students learn about their topic? What choices will they make along the way?

Inquiry & choice is so important in project-based learning. In regular assignments, you’re looking for all students to get one correct answer. In PBL, there are many ways that students can complete the project correctly. The variety allows for choice and free thinking!


Driving Questions in Project-based Learning

 The driving question is the question you pose to students in order to get them to investigate a problem or process. Students will learn or practice key standards while exploring the driving question, but the standards do not need to be stated in it – that’s a separate piece of your lesson.

Directed vs. Open-ended Questions

First of all, it’s important to understand what type of questions you’re already asking in your classroom. You will probably ask a variety of directed and open-ended questions throughout the school day. Directed questions are ok to use during a PBL, but your driving question should be an open-ended question.

Directed Questions:

  • Have one correct answer.
  • Are based on quick facts.
  • Are necessary, but not appropriate for a project’s driving question.

Open-ended Questions:

  • Have multiple correct answers.
  • Allow students to approach the question from different viewpoints.
  • Require students to investigate before answering the question.

Directed Question in Project-based Learning

Open-ended Question in Project-based Learning

What is the profit when you sell one of the RC cars in your toy store?

How do toy store owners get customers to visit their stores?

 How to write a driving question

You’ll only need one driving question for your overall project-based learning activity. This question should be open-ended and objective. Driving questions should not be asking students to make something “good” or decide if something is “good” or “bad”.

Question starter



How can I

plan a party

my friends will want to attend?

How can I

design a toy store

that customers will come spend money at?

How can I

build a lemonade stand

that my neighbours will stop at and buy lemonade from?

The question starter can easy be changed to “How can we” if working in groups or as a class.

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