Project Based Learning

I’ve been teaching using a project-based learning pedagogy since mid-2010 when I was introduced to PBL by my friend, Dean Groom.

Since then I have had some wonderful learning experiences with PBL and I enjoy sharing both my successes and failures and experiments in learning on my blog. I thought it’d be helpful for other people if I put all of my PBL-related posts on one page, just in case you’re starting out and you want to see how another teacher is doing it too.

If you have any questions, just post a comment below or send me a tweet on twitter:)

My VERY first experience with PBL – and it was hard work and had serious issues! My post might help some of your PBL newbies feel less anxious, maybe!

This is a reflection on my very first PBL experience with Year 10 – it looks at why it may not have been 100% successful.

Interest in PBL from teachers in my local area really started happening at the beginning of 2011. Here is a post where I reflect on my presentation of PBL to HTs of English in my region.

After having run a few PBL projects with my classes, this post reflects on how tough this teaching style can be in the early stages. Might be worth a read for those teachers who are finding PBL hard work.

A brief post outlining a mini-project I ran with my Year 11 English class.

This post outlines the projects I ran in early 2011 with Year 9, 10 and 11. Once again it looks at what worked and what didn’t as part of the project.

Assessment rubrics are a really important feature of PBL. This post discusses online rubric creator Rubistar and how I used it for a novel project.

This post and the next post focus on my Macbeth project – I tried to gamify it. It worked to a point but I must admit I prefer straight PBL.

Reflection on my gamified Macbeth project. Why didn’t it work?

Outline of my VERY fun ‘hook’ lesson with Year 10 about to study Macbeth.

Products for projects should be varied and interesting for students. This post looks at how to create a free eBook of student stories that can be read after scanning a QR code.

I had great success using project-learning for my top Year 11 students. Check out this post to see their amazing products – websites!

A discussion of assessment and PBL. Some ideas on why PBL is a great way to embrace formative and summative assessment.

Student voice and choice. These two posts looks at how teachers can give students much more input in the projects being run in class.

This is a comprehensive post of PBL that I wrote for a presentation to a group of teachers at Riverside Girls HS.

A big problem that PBL teachers face is group dynamics. This post looks at some possible ways of dealing with this using online tools.

This post also deals with management of teams.

For new teachers it’s tough to work out a way to get started with PBL. This post might help, might not too – haha.

After a whole year of PBL, my Year 10 students told me what the did and didn’t like about learning this way. I hope this list helps you!

In this post I give an overview of one of my favourite projects of 2011!

Is PBL successful because it appeals to the ego of the students and not the teachers? I like the comments on this post.


59 thoughts on “Project Based Learning

  1. How have I not seen this yet? This is going into my reference bookmarks for the year. Thanks for posting all of this awesome stuff!

  2. Pingback: Project Based Learning | Teaching and Learning in English at SSC |

  3. Bianca, thanks for this brilliant post. I have dipped in and out on occasion, passed on certain links to others teachers with whom I work, etc. But am planning my first PBL unit at my new school (new as in this is my second year, compared to 11 years at previous school!) to use with a group of teachers, and I am desperate for it to “work” because I think PBL is the way to go and I want them to take it up. I’ve spent the last hour or so reading, taking notes from your PBL posts, and getting a better idea how to put it all together. I’ve used pseudo PBL approaches before, but am hungry to give it more substance. Can’t thank you enough for your generosity in so willingly and honestly sharing your PBL journey as it is surely a huge help and source of inspiration for so many others.

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  6. Hey Bianca – I have just embarked on my first venture into PBL and decided to go “high stakes” by doing it with my Yr 12 English Extension 1 Crime Writing class – I used a lot of the BIE documents that you recommended and kept the project to a 4 week turn around. I am now at the pointy end where the students have just finished all of their products and I really want us to wrap it up as a truly authentic learning experience but feel I’m falling down on the real audience. The products are all different – a crime Flash-based online game, a Prezi, a 3 part radio drama, a short film, a Triple J Hack program. I think they’re awesome and they have really achieved the coverage of essential content I think we needed but…how can I “launch” or share them in a really authentic way? Would love to have your advice on who or what you think a good audience would be for such diverse products. What sorts of audiences have you used in the past that have worked? I was thinking a website where the products all become resources for fellow Yr 12 students or maybe emailing separate audiences for feedback relevant to the form/context of each product.

    • Sounds awesome! Make it a bit risky – get them to visit another school in your area doing Crime Fiction and present to that class OR to a Year 11 EE1 class with goal to convince them to choose Crime Fiction in Yr 12. OR do the website launch but make sure you invite EXPERTS as audience/panel for feedback such as a young crime fiction writer, local cops/detective etc. OR Skype with expert and/or other school. Good luck!!

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  20. Hi Bianca
    I met you at our HT conference last month and I was wondering if you could send me the link for that YouTube clip where the students discover that there is no point to school. The principal admits to school not resembling the workforce or society at all. I’m teaching satire and I think it would tie in well.
    Thanks heaps:)

  21. Hi Bianca
    I saw you at the ETA conference and was re-inspired about Project Based Learning (I’m mature-aged, retrained as a teacher, and did a lot of this on pracs, but haven’t picked it up much in my first year of teaching). You mentioned you spend the first three weeks of each year teaching “soft skills” – can you elaborate? Point in the right direction? I’m programming for my classes for 2014 now and want to put some meat onto these bones – by giving this a go. Thanks

    • Hi Fiona,
      Sorry I’ve taken ages to reply to this – I’ve been neglecting my blog over the last month😦
      These are the skills that I focus on in the first few weeks:
      team work, listening skills, learning spaces and appropriate learning behaviours in these spaces, reflecting on learning, goal-setting, chunking tasks, questioning, habits of mind (Art Costa), self-assessment, peer-assessment and public speaking… of and using tools like edmodo, weebly, blogs etc – general digital citizenship stuff.
      Think I might need to write a blog post to explain how I introduce each one!:)

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  37. Wow – these are great resources. I’ve read a few posts and look forward to going through the rest. It’s so valuable to see how PBL looks in an actual classroom, so thanks for sharing!

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  40. Kia Ora Bianca! I am at an Area School in Gisborne NZ. I teach in an integrated class of year 6-13 students (yes! All together!) I am passionate about PBL and want to fully integrate this into our NCEA system, creating an annual portfolio of learning that you can draw standards out of, rather than focusing on teaching standards to get credits. The key is getting our NZQA system to accept it as credible!
    We currently us many practices that are “Big Picture Schools” orientated, and most of what we do in the junior and middle school is through integrated inquiry.
    I will be reading up on you and your work, but just wanted to say hi! Any thoughts you have on integrating PBL into Senior School would be great. I’m not too familiar with the Australian system, but it may be similar?

    • Hi Alleyne! Great to hear from you. I LOVE the sound of what you’re doing in your school – that’s my dream, really. I think all students can learn together, for sure, especially when using a PBL approach. I think our school systems are probably pretty similar – most teachers look to the Syllabus outcomes (what you refer to as standards) and then create lessons to help students to achieve these. I personally prefer your way, which we call backward mapping – it allows greater flexibility, and means students are achieving outcomes in an authentic, meaningful way rather than a forced teacher-led way. If you want to find out more about my PBL model, check out this website I made: :)

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  42. Hey Bianca, I am keen to organise some PBL training for my team on the Gold Coast. I came down to Sydney and met with you. Are you heading our way in the near future or can you recommend anyone. Thanks for your time Kathy Hadley, Arcadia College

  43. Hi Bianca,

    So very glad that I stumbled across your blog – just to add to the multitude of others saying the same thing:-)

    I am a year 7/8 teacher in wellington, New Zealand teaching Design and Technology in a new programme (in place of the old ‘tech’ system) called DPE (Design and Production Education).

    I am really keen on teaching design etc with a much more PBL focus so have found your blog posts/experience very useful. I have become quite passionate about teaching students standard curriculum areas as well as technology with a real world context, helping them develop 21st Century skills etc.

    It’s going to be a but different for me but I am looking forward to getting stuck in.

    Perhaps I could keep you updated with our progress?


    Chris Bailey

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