PBL: A Definition

Project-based learning empowers learners to collaborate in teams, mentored by their teachers, as they research real-world questions, pose solutions to real-world problems, and design real-world products in a rigorous way.

Empowers: Project-based learning shifts the locus of control over learning from teacher to student. Students are empowered to make meaningful choices related to the projects they undertake.

Learners: Project-based learning reconceptualizes 'students' as 'learners' who are naturally curious and inquisitive. Both qualities serve as driving motivators, especially for student initiated projects.

To collaborate in teams: Project-based learning emphasizes collaboration and teamwork. Both skills are central to 21st century citizenship. (They are also highly sought after by employers.)

Mentored by their teachers: Project-based learning recasts teachers as project facilitators and supervisors, who support the work of project teams, but who also set high standards for that project work. Teachers provide full classes and small groups of students with just-in-time instruction that helps students achieve their project goals.

As they research real-world questions: Project-based learning privileges learning which is connected to real-world contexts and which draws its influence from real-world questions that professionals also seek to answer. Projects help bridge the gulf between 'school' and what happens in the 'real world' outside of school.

Pose solutions to real-world problems: Some project teams aim to help solve a pressing social or scientific problem. Such projects are often driven by a problematic situation which the project team feels compelled to address.

And design real-world products: Some project teams aim to design and build a real-world product or prototype that fulfills a certain need. Such products may be physical or virtual entities.

In a rigorous way: Project topics are typically standards-based and closely tied to the curriculum. Accountability measures that help ensure high standards are built directly into the expectations for projects. Student teams regularly report their progress to the teacher and submit interim work for formative assessment.