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Mott Hall students

Why Is PBL
Mountlake Terrace High School

What Is
PBL About?
Newsome Park Elementary School

How Does
PBL Work?
Washington State students

About PBL


Materials and resources for organizing projects.

In this section, you will find materials and resources for teaching about project-based learning, whether you are conducting a two- or three-hour session or class or can spend a day or two on the topic. We believe you will find much here from which you can build a set of experiences tailored to class participants for the purpose of exploring PBL.

This section includes the following elements:



This PowerPoint presentation introduces PBL, based on research and case studies, and discusses why the method should be used, what it is, and how to begin, touching on the process of questioning, planning, scheduling, monitoring, assessing, and evaluating. The presentation then asks for group participation, and activities to be done in small groups are suggested on the final slides. Active links are provided for Web sites.


The PowerPoint presentation, available online, consists of seventeen slides. If you have Microsoft PowerPoint capability on your computer, you can download the PowerPoint file and show it as a PowerPoint presentation in your classroom; you can also make changes, insert your own course information, and use it as you would any PowerPoint presentation. In addition, each slide in the downloaded and online versions contains Speaker Notes you can use as lecture notes when you show the presentation.

If you do not have Microsoft PowerPoint, you can download PowerPoint Viewer®, which will allow you to share this presentation with an audience but will not allow you to edit it in any way.


You can use the HTML version online during class time if you have a computer and a presentation system with Internet access; use it as you would any lecture presentation material. Alternatively, download the PowerPoint file to your hard drive or CD-ROM for use on your laptop or a classroom computer; open and run the PowerPoint file just as you would any other PowerPoint presentation.

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Before watching a set of videos that demonstrate PBL at work, use these ideas to organize discussions:

  • Ask participants, "What questions do you have about good PBL projects that might be answered by looking carefully at a video of students working on a project?"
  • Suggest that participants view the videos shown with particular questions in mind. For example, they can be asked to watch the Newsome Park while looking for evidence of how students were included in developing a key question for a project.


Share the following articles and videos with class participants:


Guide participants in these follow-up activities:

  • After reflection or small-group discussion, engage the larger group of participants in conversation about what they saw.
  • Other ideas for viewing questions include, "What steps did the students take to work on their project?" "What curriculum standards did the students meet through work on their project?" "What is the role of the teacher in PBL?"


Ask participants, "What do the experts have to say about the effectiveness of PBL activities?" Then, engage in these activities:

  • Introduce participants to interviews on Edutopia.org.
  • Suggest that small groups (2-4 participants) read and talk about the questions and responses of one expert, or assign particular experts to small groups. (There are several options: focus on national experts such as Howard Gardner, Seymour Papert, and Sylvia Chard, concentrate on individual school personnel (principals and/or teachers and/or students), or assign two or more experts within a category so participants can compare and contrast their comments.
  • Suggest that participants conduct external research on their expert to see what else he or she has to say about PBL.
  • Have the small groups present their findings to the large group. (Participants may develop a PowerPoint presentation, role-play an interview, or report their findings in other ways.)

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Ask participants, "What makes a project a good one?" and then follow these steps:

  • Suggest that participants think about projects they may have conducted, are thinking about conducting, or have seen others conduct.
  • Show the video Mountlake Terrace.
  • Ask participants to talk in small groups about what evidence they saw of a good project (for example, the project revolved around a real-world topic; students were involved in project definition by suggesting questions; experts were included).
  • Solicit ideas from the whole group, and start a list of criteria for good projects on a flip chart or other media (so criteria can be added as more learning about good projects takes place).
  • View another GLEF video featuring a class at a different grade level (for example, Mott Hall or Newsome Park) and talk about the differences (if any) in criteria for a good project based on the age and experience of the students. GLEF videos about PBL are listed on Edutopia.org's Video page. (In the Search by Topic pull-down menu, select "Project-Based Learning," then click on Submit.)


In the "What Is PBL About?" section of this teaching module, the work of education researcher Sylvia Chard is cited. Chard, who defines project learning as "an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children's attention and effort," has developed Project Approach, a Web site that explores project learning and suggests good practices. Introduce participants to Chard's work by following these steps:

  • Show Project Approach to the class, have them read the About page, and review the site's main topics with them.
  • Divide the class into several groups and assign them to look at the Theory, Planning, and Project Development sections and prepare to report to the class about their assigned section. (Each section includes several parts, so suggest that the one or more members of each group study each part.)
  • To finish this assignment, all small groups should explore a few project examples, based on their grade-level interest.
  • Have participants share the most interesting things they learned or saw with the rest of the group.


The importance of helping students identify and ask good questions is explored in the "What Is PBL About?" section of this teaching module.

From Now On, a Web site published by educational-technology champion Jamie McKenzie, offers a wide array of ideas for good teaching and learning. Key to many of them is a good question -- how to recognize one, how to develop one for students, and how to help students develop their own. To guarantee effective PBL, it is essential that the starting point is a good question. To explore this idea with the class, follow these steps:

  • Have participants go to McKenzie's article "The Question is the Answer".
  • Assign individuals or small groups to read, review, and discuss different parts of the article.
  • Have individuals or small groups share their findings with the class.
  • Conclude with a general discussion on what makes a good PBL question.

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For a number of years, education scholar Judi Harris and her graduate students studied how teachers were using the Internet. The International Society for Technology in Education published the results in Virtual Architecture, a book written by Harris, who has also maintained a Web site by that name that highlights key findings and provides links to a variety of project examples.

  • Direct participants to visit Dr. Harris' Web site and explore the various sections.
  • Have participants explore the links to projects found in Curriculum-Based Telecomputing Projects & Resources, according to their interests. (The projects cover a range of ages, grades, subject areas, and purposes.)
  • Ask participants to identify three projects they find most interesting and thoroughly explore those projects.
  • Have participants describe what they found to the class.


Here are more ideas for using the wealth of resources on Edutopia.org in your class:


Ask participants: "How will you evaluate student projects?" Being able to evaluate the effectiveness of projects in terms of student learning is key to their success, as well as to whether the time and energy put into developing projects is worthwhile. A number of sites on the Web provide links to rubrics sites. (For example, see Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators, on DiscoverySchool.com.) To familiarize participants with rubrics, follow these steps:

  • Have participants explore the Web sites RubiStar and Project-Based Learning Checklists.
  • Ask participants to talk about the pros and cons of the kinds of rubrics that can be developed.
  • Direct participants to develop a sample rubric based on their research.
  • Have participants share their work with the whole group when they are finished.
  • Review GLEF's Assessment Instructional Module, which explores a variety of forms of assessment, including rubrics, and their use in evaluating PBL activities.


Ask participants: "What ideas do you have for a project?" This activity can be divided into a number of sections. For example, before actually creating a project, participants might share their own project ideas:

  • Have small groups discuss new project ideas.
  • Have participants speculate.
  • Have them create, discussing what they will imagine, how they will prepare, and how they will mentor.

Participants might then be asked to brainstorm effective questions. Have them

  • share ideas for essential questions.
  • reflect on the standards that will be addressed.
  • talk about subjects that can be woven into the process.
  • create concept maps illustrating the brainstorming process.
  • share their concept maps with the rest of the group.

When participants are ready to develop their own projects, have them review Sylvia Chard'sproject design materials. Participants can then begin to plan their projects and fill in the project template. This template should be used as a planning tool, providing formative evaluation as the project progresses. Part of the "Evaluating the Experience" step will be to suggest what might be done differently in the future to make the project more effective.

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Edutopia.org Articles:

External Links:

Recommended Texts:

    Beyond Technology: Questioning, Research, and the Information Literate School, First Edition
    Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D.
    Published: 2000
    Copyright © 2000
    ISBN: 0-9674078-2-6

    The Project Approach, Book One
    Sylvia C. Chard, Ph.D.
    Published: 1998
    Copyright © 1994, 1998
    ISBN: 0-590-12852-3

    Learning by Heart, First Edition
    Roland S. Barth
    Published: 2001
    Copyright © 2001
    ISBN: 0-7879-5543-4


The sample schedule provides ideas for one- and two-day sessions. Depending on your resources, videos can be viewed online or on DVD, CD-ROM, or VHS. (GLEF offers a premade Project-Based Learning DVD featuring eight documentaries, or you can browse and build your own.) Ideally, participants should have online access to Internet resources, particularly for the afternoon and second-day sessions.

Join Edutopia.org's PBL Community

The George Lucas Educational Foundation publishes a free PBL e-newsletter to highlight new stories that shine the light on the good things happening in classrooms and communities across the country. Subscribe now to Project-Based Learning or all three e-newsletters. (The George Lucas Educational Foundation does not sell or otherwise distribute to third parties any personal information about our newsletter subscribers.)

Download a PDF of an archival issue of a GLEF print newsletter issue featuring examples of PBL.

GLEF also produces books, CD-ROMs, and other materials that can be purchased on Edutopia.org.

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