Project-Learning (aka PBL) for beginners #plsm13

This blog post is probably not written for you, even though you may have stumbled across it accidentally thanks to your search engine. This blog post isn’t even written for the people who follow me on Twitter, although a few of those do just happen to be in the group for whom this post is being written. This blog post is being written for the eager, dedicated, risk-taking and generous educators who will be attending the inaugural Project Learning Swap Meet at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum on January, 19th 2013.

I’m getting very excited about the event because I know wonderful things will come of it. I know that you lovelies who are attending will be bringing your questions, your experiences, your ideas and your enthusiasm to the day because you want to do more than just listen to people talk about new pedagogies or new technologies or new designs for classrooms. You want to plan and run epic projects that will bring your students into contact with other people from all over the place. You want to plan and run epic projects that will challenge your students to do/create amazing new things and to think in weird new ways. You want more for your students and you know that money can’t get that – the only thing that can get that is time, effort, risk, connectedness and heaps of crazy ideas.

Before you embark upon this day of mega planning and brain-melting mashing of inspired ideas, you probably need a tiny bit of background information about this project-learning stuff. You’ve heard of PBL (it’s pretty hip right now and before you know it the big guns will be here to sell you their wares and their methods) and maybe you’ve tried it out and just want to do more. You’re probably thinking, ‘Why are they calling it project-learning and not PBL?’ There is a good reason. We don’t want you to get carried away with the hype around PBL. People are starting to see it as a poultice for every edu ache and pain. But learning through projects is not a quick fix solution. It requires painstaking planning, tireless commitment, the willingness to get to know each and every one of your students individually, and a toolkit of daily quality teaching strategies. You can’t just download a PBL guide from the internet or watch a YouTube clip then go tweak an assignment or unit of work and think that it will solve your teaching woes. Oh no. Time must be invested if your students are to really get the most from learning through projects. Proper project-learning is completely personal and entirely do-it-yourself. Listening to a keynote, attending a workshop (even the one we’re running) or getting in an ‘expert’ to your school simply isn’t enough. You’ve gotta commit.

Below is a list of blog posts, YouTube videos, PDFs and websites that I recommend you look through to get a general picture of what learning through projects looks like. You don’t need to read them closely, just skim read – that’s what I do! Just get a feel for what these projects look and feel like for teachers and students. Remember that the difference between the types of projects that you did as a student and the types of projects we’re talking about is that the learning IS the project. It is THROUGH the project that your students will be learning content and skills – and a whole bunch of other random and unforeseen stuff! The project doesn’t come at the END of learning – it’s not an assessment although assessment is built throughout the projects – it comes at the BEGINNING because it is the catalyst for the learning taking place in your classroom. The project comes first. IT is all there is.

If you’re like me and you just never manage to read much, preferring to jump in head first and learn to swim through drowning (the perfect project-learning student!) then all you need to know is that there are three components to all great projects:




The quintessential PBL video: PBL Explained by BIE.

An overview of a project that I ran this year with my students: The 8 Elements of Project Based Learning

A great article explaining why project-learning is different to doing a project: Main Course, Not Dessert

A video summarising research I’ve done into PBL and assessment: PBL: Is asking questions the answer?

Suzie Boss (amazing advocate for PBL) writes about new research into PBL: New Research Helps Make Case for PBL

Suzie Boss (again) writing about PBL World and some really great example driving questions: Yong Zhao: PBL Develops Students’ Creative Confidence

This is where most people start with PBL – with the BIE Freebies. I say ‘start’ because they need quite a lot of adapting to make them suit you and your students – you’re human beings after all, not robots! BIE Planning Tools

A seven-minute Pecha Kucha I did on PBL whist ISTE-drunk (it’s embarrassing): PBL PK

Another blog post by me (form ages ago) about why I like PBL so much: PBL + me = why?

I really love the model projects (year 1-12) shared on The Project Approach website: Project Examples

3 thoughts on “Project-Learning (aka PBL) for beginners #plsm13

  1. Pingback: Project Based Learning and the Australian Curriculum ‘General Capabilities’ (Part 2) |

  2. Pingback: Brief notes on ISTE 2013

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