George Lucas Educational Foundation
Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project-Based Learning: What Administrators Can Do

What administrators can do to support project-based learning.

November 1, 2001

Get the basics

Check out The Project Approach created by University of Alberta Professor Sylvia Chard, an expert on learning through projects. The Buck Institute for Education offers an extensive introduction to project-based learning, including research and training manuals for middle and high school teachers.

Encourage implementation of multiple projects

In its Challenge 2000 Year 4 report SRI researchers said that having more than one project a year makes the project model an integral part of the school structure.

Support teachers' efforts to implement project-based learning

A University of Michigan research team led by Ronald W. Marx found that when first implementing project-based learning, teachers may have trouble with such critical issues as classroom and time management, technology use, and assessment. However, the authors found that such problems can be alleviated with a supportive school environment that allows for reflection, collaboration, and feedback. Newsome Park Elementary School Principal Peter Bender says it's a good idea to support a core group of teachers that have shown interest in project-based learning. And, he says, take plenty of time to build choice for students into the process.

Invite policymakers to "Project Day."

Whatever your school calls the public celebration or presentation at the end of a project, policymakers should be included among special guests invited to attend. Seeing is believing, and policymakers who see firsthand the beneficial results of project-based learning are more likely to support such an approach.


Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project. With evidence of its own work at a number of San Francisco Bay Area schools, project officials outline the components of project-based learning and make the case for its benefit to students and teachers.

Coalition for Essential Schools. The coalition advocates working on real-world problems as a way to engage students.

Co-nect. Co-nect works with schools to create real-world projects that integrate technology into a rigorous curriculum.

Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach. This book by Professors Sylvia Chard and Lilian Katz, first published in 1989 and revised in 2000, provides an introduction to the project approach to learning.

Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound. At the heart of this comprehensive school reform model are long-term, multidisciplinary expeditions.

Global SchoolNet Foundation Project Registry. Created for teachers, this Web site contains worldwide projects using technology from classroom teachers and organizations such as NASA, iEARN, and GLOBE. The projects can be sorted by age level, subject, and project start date.

Investigation Station. This Web site, hosted by The Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education at the University of Michigan, provides teachers and students with ideas, tools, and resources for inquiry-based science projects.

Roadmap to Restructuring. Newsome Park Elementary School Principal Peter Bender says he heavily relied on this book by David Conley in making project-based learning the focal point of his school's curriculum.

Virtual Architecture. University of Texas Professor Judi Harris created a Web site that is rich in ideas on how to mine the Internet for projects. She offers a framework for designing and implementing curriculum-based telecomputing projects.

WebQuest. Created by San Diego State University Professor Bernie Dodge, this Web site offers teachers and students examples and explanations on using, selecting, and analyzing information found on the Web for teaching any subject at any grade level. WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented approach that supports thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Weizmann Institute of Science. This institute, located in Rehovot, Israel, offers teachers and administrators tips for professional development for project-based learning.

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