George Lucas Educational Foundation

Project-Based Learning Professional Development Guide

An overview of the Edutopia professional development guide for teaching how to use project-based learning in the classroom.
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  • Share's Project-Based Learning professional development guide can be used for a two- to three-hour session, or expanded for a one- to two-day workshop, and is divided into two parts.

Part one is a guided process, designed to give participants a brief introduction to project-based learning (PBL), and answers the questions "Why is PBL important?", "What is PBL about?", and "How does PBL work?"

Part two assigns readings and activities for experiential PBL. Ideally, the tasks will be accomplished using group collaboration and with the use of technology. These activities are outlined in the Workshop Activities section. You will also find links to examples, from the video library, of PBL in action at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Students Follow the Butterflies' Migration: Teacher Frances Koontz shows students a symbolic butterfly sent from children in Mexico.

The Resources for PBL page includes a PowerPoint presentation (including presenter notes), which can be shown directly from the website or downloaded for use as a stand-alone slide show, and sample session schedules. You will also find recommended websites, books, and additional videos to learn more about PBL in this section.

This guide was designed to address many of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), established by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

To find the specific standards for your state, visit this page at Education World that lists standards by academic subject and by state.


Continue to the next section of the guide, Why Is PBL Important?

Acknowledgments: This module was written by Sara Armstrong and Marian Shaffner. The George Lucas Educational Foundation extends its thanks to the following people who reviewed it for content and usability: Peggy Benton, assistant professor, PT3 grant director and adviser, Department of Instructional Technologies, San Francisco State University, San Francisco; DiAnn Ellis, professor, Department of Education, SFSU; David Pownell, assistant professor, Department of Education, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas; Tina Barrios, supervisor of instructional technology, Manatee County Schools, Bradenton, Florida; Donna Read, associate professor of education, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida; and Bruce "Chip" Daley, coordinator of research, development and special projects, Clark County School District, Las Vegas.

Comments (15) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Theresa 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

HELP... I taught technology to K-6 for several years and integrated all the subjects into my lessons. Our campus is starting PBL this Fall. Lots of prework taking place. Can you help me by guiding me to sites/books that could help with PBL for Kindergarten? I will be teaching it in the Fall in a regular ed classroom and want to do the best job possible.

Jane Krauss's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You asked for speakers re: PBL. The Buck Institute for Education is phenomenal. (Full disclosure, I'm a member of the BIE national faculty.)

Diane Reeves's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sandy Mittelsteadt is nationally known as a expert in PBL, career academies, and other educational topics. My company will be publishing her latest book, Sticky Learning Toolkit: A Make It Real Planning Guide for Engaging Students in Project-Based Learning within a matter of weeks. You can contact Sandy directly at or find information about the book at

Good luck!

Ken Ellis's picture
Ken Ellis
Former Executive Producer, video , Edutopia

Hi Chris,
Re Expeditionary Learning exemplar projects, help is on the way. The Expeditionary Learning Schools org is in the process of creating a multimedia database of their best projects. Check with them for more info. We will also be featuring "An Anatomy of..." three projects from King Middle School in Portland, ME at the end of February. Stay tuned.

Emilie "Mikki" Uyehara's picture
Emilie "Mikki" Uyehara
Multi-Cultural Curriculum Developer Hawaii K-12

My fellow educator in Hawaii, Catalina Remos is doing an incredible project with her 7th grade language arts students that fosters cultural awareness, and social consciousness across three generations. In order to better understand social issues and how our society has come to form their opinions about them on an experience based level, students will be conducting multi-generational interviews: Four from their grandparent's generation, four from their parent's generation, and four from their own generation. In preparation, students will be grouped by research topic. The research topic groups will ask ten questions about that topic. These answers will give insight on the forming their interviewee's opinion on that topic, and their current opinion on the issue. The eleventh "question" in the set will be a factor card with these ten factors: Ethnicity, education, experience, family, friends, gender, literature, media, religion, and socioeconomic status. The interviewees will be asked to rate the factors according to influentiality: 10 being the most influential factor, and 1 being the least influential factor. After the interviews are over, the students will collect the data and fill out three charts: "Progress of __ Issue Over Time", and "Influentiality of Factors on ___ Issue", and "Influentiality of Factors on ___ Issue by Generations". The students will then analyze and evaluate the data. They will report their findings in a chosen format: magazine, brochure, website, newspaper, essay, etc. This will be the content of their presentations.
The Project's conclusion will be celebrated by a 2 day event sponsored by University of Hawaii's Aloha Music Project and SafeDayEvents Hawaii.
We will be posting the curriculum at the updated Island Nutopia Website. Interested parties please go to and link through their portal to the Island Nutopia site. You may also receive the curriculum in its entirety by sending a request via email to myself or Catalina, at or
Mahalo and happy learning to all:O)

Anthony V. Manzo's picture
Anthony V. Manzo
Professor Emeritus, Literacy Education/Cognitive Psychology

REALLY!!! Finally a new book addresses the over-emphasis on the what of teaching to the neglect of the how of teaching (Joseph Wise, Power of Teaching--The Science of the Art). What Wise slightly overlooks however is that there is a giant and disruptive step to be taken between realizing the need for an emphasis on how to teach and achieving it. Currently here is no such thing as Teacher Education anywhere on the planet. Fifty years of modern research on teaching and still there is no science of instruction. Schools of Education and Education Professors need a dose of renewal, compliance and accountability. You might wish to look in on my attempt to jump-start such a process of parsing and ranking of teaching methods until we have a simple list of Good, Better and Best Practices. Of course, this alone will not do it we also must initiate department level REGULATION of what professors teach. Currently a course with the same name and syllabus can be entirely different from one professor to another. There is have no core curriculum, every other profession has a body of knowledge that everyone must know. The current "Race to The Top" inadvertently leaves only teachers behind. &

Linda's picture

[quote]Does anyone have a good resource for Expeditionary Learning units I can use as examples?

I have applied to teach at an ELS and although I have found resources for familiarizing myself with the general philosophy and practices, it would be very helpful to have some models for the actual expeditions themselves. Much thanks!


Check out Also, if you do a google search for Expeditionary Learning, many websites come up with a lot of information. This should help you with discovering more about project based learning. Hope that helps!

Chrysalis School Montana

Barbara Fair's picture

I totally agree- and I'm not a member of their faculty :) Their book on PBL is a fantastic resource!

Gregory Naulikha's picture
Gregory Naulikha
Education Advisor at the Canadian International Development Agency in Kenya

How does Project Based Learning link with Outcome based accountability? Anyone know.

Greg. thanks

Mrs. Haddock PBL's picture
Mrs. Haddock PBL
9th and 11th Grade English Teacher. Project-Based Learning , Texas

Hi Greg!

Project-Based Learning is founded on the Learning Standards. I'm from Texas, and thus we base our learning outcomes on the TEKS. Therefore, every project is created with the end in mind. Appropriate standards are selected, and the project takes shapes from that point. Cheers!

Mrs. Haddock

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