PBL Info for Parents and Community

Last Updated: 11/16/2020 9:15 PM

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. PBL is 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. (PBL Works)

Yellow Springs Schools has been using PBL pedagogy since the 2013-14 school year.

1. What is PBL?

PBL, or project-based learning, is an inquiry-based teaching and learning method. Students choose a complex question or problem to answer, and then work toward solutions. These topics are often real-world based, addressing issues in the school, community, or on a larger scale. Project-based learning is hands-on, student-driven and engaging.

2. Why use PBL in Yellow Springs Schools?

Project-Based Learning helps students develop skills that align with the values of the Yellow Springs community. Students learn to be collaborative, critical thinkers, and agents of change. Through project-based learning, students practice skills that will help them to be leaders and to make an impact on their community locally, nationally, and globally.

3. How does PBL work?

PBL is learning through doing. It involves engaging students with authentic problems. It requires students to be given the opportunity and support to explore a problem and identify solutions or answers. Next students create, critique, revise, and reflect upon their answers, ideas, or products. Finally, evidence of student learning is made public in an exhibition of some kind.

4. Do students still learn content standards with PBL?

Within project-based learning, our teachers still cover all the required content standards with students. and students learn the important concepts that make up any education, like literacy, math, science, social studies, fine arts, foreign languages, and other subjects.

PBL Works - Dessert Main Course

Seven Essential Project Design Elements (PBL Works)

  1. Challenging Problem or Question: The project is framed by a meaningful problem to be solved or question to be answered, at the appropriate level of challenge.  
  2. Sustained Inquiry: Students engage in rigorous, extended process of posing questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  3. Authenticity: The project involves real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact, or the project speaks to personal concerns, interests, and issues in the students’ lives.
  4. Student Voice and Choice: Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create, and express their own ideas in their own voice.
  5. Reflection: Students and teachers reflect on the learning, and the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, and obstacles that arise and strategies for overcoming them.
  6. Critique and Revision: Students give, receive, and apply feedback to improve their process and products.
  7. Public Product: Students make their project work public by sharing it with and explaining or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.

Seven Project Based Teaching Practices (PBL Works)

  1. Design & Plan: Teachers create or adapt a project for their context and students, and plan its implementation from launch to culmination while allowing for some degree of student voice and choice.
  2. Align to Standards: Teachers use standards to plan the project and make sure it addresses key knowledge and understanding from subject areas to be included.
  3. Build the Culture: Teachers explicitly and implicitly promote student independence and growth, open-ended inquiry, team spirit and attention to quality.
  4. Manage Activities: Teachers work with students to organize tasks and schedules, set checkpoints and deadlines, find and use resources, create products and make them public.
  5. Scaffold Student Learning: Teachers employ a variety of lessons, tools, and instructional strategies tos support all students in reaching project goals.
  6. Assess Student Learning: Teachers use formative and summative assessments of knowledge, understanding, and success skills, and include self and peer assessment of team and individual work.
  7. Engage & Coach: Teachers engage in learning and creating alongside students, and identify when they need skill-building, redirection, encouragement and celebration.

Additional PBL Information and Resources

PBL Works, formerly The Buck Institute, a leader in the field of project-based learning, answers the question in these two videos.
What is PBL?
PBL Explained 

High Tech High, a unique public charter system in San Diego, is a pioneer in the pedagogy of PBL. Learn all about their approach in these three videos. 

PBL at High Tech High
High School PBL: Save the Beach
Most Likely To Succeed

PBL is effective at all grade levels. These three videos demonstrate PBL at the elementary and middle schools levels.

Elementary PBL: Kindergarten Harvest
Elementary PBL: Worms to Wall Street
Middle School PBL: Gender Roles

There are several organizations that take a PBL or inquiry-based approach.

Big Picture Learning
EL Education
New Tech Network

Here is some research on PBL outcomes and additional PBL information.
PBL Outcomes
Alliance for Excellent Education
Deeper Learning
The Deeper Learning Dozen