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Interesting article! However,

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Interesting article! However, I do feel that differentiating between problem-based learning and project-based learning is just an exercise in semantics. I feel like one could easily argue that a certain lesson could fit into either category and they wouldn't be incorrect. I see both styles on a spectrum of the same inquiry-based foundation. The steps taken by the student are the same, as are the end results. Having two names just adds to confusion when discussing these techniques, why not give them a simplified name and move on?

Educational Technology Leadership Consultant

I also would have approached

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I also would have approached it as problem-based being a superset and project-based may or may not be a subset, depending on how it is crafted, as with other x-based. I have read opinions that problem-based is a more open approach...less constrained.

X-based was a humorous observations of X- trying to ride the coat tails. STEM has similar coat-tail chasers at times.

Good post.

Editor in Chief at the Buck Institute for Education

Perspectives differ, you're

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Perspectives differ, you're right Laura, and yes, what we call the learning experience is not what matters. The problem-based learning you describe is what I'd call a more "advanced" practice than the typical model (I drew from a more traditional academic perspective, which is used more in post-secondary settings, along with high schools like New Tech and IMSA). And yes, what people call "projects" varies wildly, that's why we're trying to promote a more rigorous model of that PBL.

Educational Consultant

Since both kinds of PBL have

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Since both kinds of PBL have the same critical thunking objective, I prefer the term Problem-based over Project based because the term project is so over used, beginning in Kindergarten students have "projects" that are actually very prescribed. I like to focus on a problem with a "product" for the outcome. The term product implies a synthesis of understandings.
No matter problem based or project based it is the right path for our students!

President at Smart Science Education Inc.

What's in a name? I like the

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What's in a name? I like the name "extended learning experience." That says it all! Well done.

In a world beset with an ever-increasing Babel of confusing acronyms, why add more? I mean -- we now have STEM instead of good old-fashioned science, which has a large enough tent to include engineering and mathematics (along with plenty of technology) already. A fuller science learning experience as practiced by many science teachers already is now tagged as STEAM. WTH!! Why not add on history and have SHTEAM?

I vote for dumping all of these silly acronyms that clearly mean different things to different people and just sticking with the simplest possible terms. Science is science. An extended learning experience is just that and does not have to be a confusing PBL.

Director, Antioch Center for School Renewal

Interesting! Our perspective

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Interesting! Our perspective depends on where we stand, doesn't it? My work with the Critical Skills Program is rooted in Problem based learning- plus (think SEL + PBL), I would disagree complete with the chart you include here. In my experience, a good Problem-based experience requires students to pull from all disciplines, think creatively (as opposed to using "prescribed steps," and can be structured to accommodate any length of time- hours, days, weeks, or months. In fact, I'd say that much of what you have in the column on the right reflects much of my experience with Project Based Learning- typically it's short, focused on a single discipline, and tends to be more step-by-step oriented.

I think that the important piece isn't the language we use to describe it- it's the learning experience one designs and facilitates with students.

Teacher and Teacher Educator specializing in Mathematics PBL

John, Great post – Love the

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Great post –
Love the Similarities – and thanks for your clarifications of the differences between problem-based and project-based learning. From my experiences with mathematics and problem-based learning at the secondary level however, I think one of the biggest differences that I like to talk about is the type of authenticity in the assigned task. In mathematics, since it can be a very theoretical subject matter, in order to practice being a mathematician tasks don’t always have to have an applied outcome. I believe it was David Jonassen who coined the phrases “Emergent Authenticy” and “Pre-authentication” when talking about the ways in which a teacher can scaffold or author the types of tasks for students in the differences between project- and problem-based learning. This is a wonderful way to distinguish the original intent of the task and how the student is meant to move through it as a mathematician.

While I do agree that problem-based learning can have less applied outcome tasks, I think the types of solutions, presentation of problems and the process of collaboration fosters the same types of 21st century skills. I would disagree with the statement that it generally “follows specific traditionally prescribed steps” however. Appreciating student perspectives and authorship of the material is probably one the biggest parts of the PBL pedagogy for me.

Bob Barboza, Founder of Super School University

Thank you for your post.

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Thank you for your post. Here is a new PBL to add to your list. Project Based-STEAM ++ Learning (Occupy Mars Project). We are working with a team of 1,000 fifth graders. Our podcasts and portfolio exhibits can be found on Kids Talk Radio.

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