Is PBL Right for Your Student(s)?

Project Based Learning (PBL)

PBL, Project Based Learning (PBL), is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.1 Unlike traditional projects, students work on the assigned curriculum (verses just a topic) for an extended period of time, possibly the entire semester. During this time, their work is more extensive. They are answering complex questions, learning the ins and outs of the topic, using extensive critical thinking, communication, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Project Based Learning can also bring out the creative energy among students and teachers.

It is important to note PBL doesn’t necessarily work in every classroom. This method of learning is greatly effective in an environment where students are learner centered as it allows them to experiment with and address authentic issues, and work with peers and community members to gain knowledge.

Isn’t this basically a normal project?

Not quite. Most projects are assigned after an instructor has introduced new content to students, given excerpts, shared videos, and possibly given a quiz. Project Based Learning is the actual material used to learn. Projects typically are an extension to show what the student has learned. Using the project-based learning method, students take in knowledge of the given topic or subject by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.

Project Based Learning (PBL)
Photo Credit: Pexels (

Project-Based Learning is about the process, and projects are about the product that comes at the end. There are a few more differences when it comes to traditional projects and Project Based Learning, like:

  1. Traditional projects: Based on criteria and a set of directions. 

Project Based Learning: Based on purpose and inquiry.

  1. Traditional projects: Pre-planned and thought out before assigning 

Project Based Learning: Allows the student to be open-minded and creative

  1. Traditional projects: Handed into teacher 

Project Based Learning: Published for public viewers

  1. Traditional projects: Presented to fellow students

Project Based Learning: Presented to real world audience

  1. Traditional projects: Model and assignment based

Project Based Learning: Problem & opportunity based

Oftentimes requiring students to think outside of the box, these projects shine a light on the process of learning by offering authentic, inquiry-based activities for learners to access content, collaborate and use their own version of critical thinking. It’s more to it than collecting photos and organizing their research to share with their classmates.

How is PBL beneficial?

Using the PBL method, students are responsible for identifying a problem, researching their options, and formulating a solution. Students can begin to benefit from the skills acquired during Project Based Learning as early as elementary school. 

The collaborative nature of projects also reinforces the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs being implemented at progressive schools around the world 2.

A few gains from this method of learning are: 

Problem Solving: Students use critical thinking skills to learn how to solve problems that affect them, let’s say low-income housing or littering for instance. Some projects may even include finding solutions from failed scenarios.

Project Management: Students can learn how to manage projects and assignments more efficiently.

Collaboration: A large part of PBL is the relationships formed during collaboration. While collaborating, students learn how to work more effectively in groups by contributing their personal input, listening to others, and resolving conflicts if they arise. 

Creativity: Students apply creative thinking and ingenuity skills to create new opportunities, possibly product designs, for projects.

Perseverance: Students learn to manage mishaps more effectively and adjust until they’re satisfied with their work.

Lending a Helping Hand is a great example of Project Based Learning. Students become financial advisors and are challenged to make the best use of $25 in a way that impacts their community most 2Click here to see more3. 

1 What is PBL? | PBLWorks.com

2 Project-Based Learning: Benefits, Examples, and Resources 

3 PBLWorks.com | Lending A Helping Hand

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