George Lucas Educational Foundation

Conditions that support project learning

Conditions that support project learning

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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Some essential conditions need to be in place for pbl practices to really take hold and so kids can accomplish marvelous things. I've been doing some pbl program planning recently and I need your advice. We all know PBL works best when certain conditions are in place. What would you say those essential conditions are? I know teacher characteristics, intentions and methods are key, but outside the teachers and students, what else? I'm starting a list and I wonder if you might add to it. Additionally, sometimes the removal of barriers is important, too. Essential Conditions for PBL strong implementation * A school culture that tolerates, even encourages, the sometimes messy chaos of student-directed learning. * Access to any technologies that support the teaching and learning enterprise * A system of accountability that causes a teacher to demonstrate --and parents and administrators to understand-- that rigorous learning aims are met though the PBL. * ? Remove barriers * Reconsider when and where learning takes place. Structure some flexibility (oxymoron!) into the school program so spaces and time are less of a limiting factor. * ? I appreciate your help!

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Jane Krauss's picture
Jane Krauss
Teacher, curriculum and program developer, author, PBL facilitator, techie

We find that making sure we meet with small groups helps us make sure that students are staying on track and it gives us time to support them and a place where classmates can give feedback and help learning move forward and or deeper.[/quote]
Brilliant point! How do you schedule these? As needed, at milestones?

[quote]We are also finding that asking students to make mindmaps of their learning journeys helps to both assess student progress and keep students accountable for the time they are using in class.[/quote]
Can you supply any samples of their mind maps? I think this is a great idea and I'd love to see them!

John Bennett's picture
John Bennett
Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

In looking over all the postings, I have two suggestions:

(1) Don't miss the opportunities to involve the families - as long as you insure the family is not taking over. Involving the families helps them connect with their child's education and with the school. It also opens the possibility that some experience will help a family member become engaged with future PBL efforts. And it offloads possible time / resource constraints.

(2) Make sure the assessment starts with group self-assessment and documentation thereof. This is important experience for career success capabilities, improves the motivation for PBL engagement and overall learning, and provides a starting point / focus for teacher assessment.

Neither of these are suggested alternatives to the other good suggestions.

Janet L Bontz, EdD's picture
Janet L Bontz, EdD
BIE National Faculty

We have identified the essential components that are necessary to have success in PBL schools.

They include a positive learning culture, academic supports, a significant student role, and a teacher in an advisory role.

These can be found at

Rachel Pickett's picture
Rachel Pickett
10th grade Social Studies

I'm figuring out PBL this year. There's lots that's been successful, and a lot of mistakes I've made and am learning from. The more collaborative and supportive the environment is, for teachers, the quicker PBL will become effective and creative in the classroom. Teachers need space, and community, to learn how to be effective facilitators.

SP's picture

I would add that implementing successful PBL requires teaching students the proper methodology. What many people overlook is that students must learn how to run a project before they can actually do so. This can be done by following a project management curriculum and using the appropriate technology. integrates sharing and social networking technology with project management tools like checklists, project outlines, task management and lessons learned documents. This serves to provide them with structure and the right tools to get the work done.

Lauren Vargas's picture
Lauren Vargas
A New Teacher

I am a new teacher so I have only been experimenting with project based learning, but what I have found was that if you want the students to produce something, they seem to engage more if they know that what they create will not be deleted or tossed in the trash once they finish. In addition, I think it makes the product more meaningful because students learn something that deals with an idea that goes beyond the subject or the school.

JB's picture

[quote]Facilitating PBL to ensure all of the students have mastered their core competencies and completed the project goals is going to require a learning management system that has strong personalization and assessment capabilities, if this type of learning experiences is going to scale.[/quote]

LMS's can guide the curriculum mapping process as well as track achievement. In the middle is the use of rubrics. Thanks for your ideas, they are right on.[/quote]

Absolutely, and, in my opinion, this is why LMS is of a great help. Contents can be adjusted to match student's pace. And instructors are able to track their grades and potential progress. LMS are really helping teachers and are likely to lead to great achievements thanks to an almost personalized course load. What text books can't do. Find out more here:

I hope this helps!

Thomas Davenport's picture
Thomas Davenport
Middle School Technology Teacher

I am looking for help on just this issue: accountability. You seem to be suggesting that keeping the project is the basis of accountability within a PBL experience. Accountability is my number one problem right now. Just part of the group working and not the rest. There has been an added challenge because the students need to all be gathered around one PPT that is being made at this stage of the project.

Sel Kerans's picture
Sel Kerans
Regional ICT Manager at Dept Education Training and Employment

Hi, great idea to collaborate on PBL conditions... They appear well founded.
. Flexibility and support for teachers coordinating the PBL is essential
. Recognition of the work of students as contributing to local/ global knowledge
. Alignment of school culture by leaders to be able to maintain, sustain and continue innovation in the PBL
. Involvement of community and experts and organizations, university
. Some outside funding, financial support is useful

Hey checkout my PBL started in 1996 the web site is still there with much of the work we did to learn from. :-) Project Atmosphere Australia Online

Happy days


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