Incorporating PBL into the Classroom

Describe qualities of a successful project.

According to the BIE website, Project Based Learning (PBL) is “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge”. In order for a project to be successful, it must include the following qualities: standards-based content and 21st century skills, a challenging driving problem or question, sustained inquiry, authenticity or real-world context, student voice/choice within the project, reflection of the process and end result, a period of critique and revision, and a final product that is shared publically.

What issues must a teacher consider that are specific to PBL instructional strategies?

A PBL environment is unlike conventional educational learning environments in that it requires a high degree of collaboration among students (a skill which must be taught to them!), and also redefines the role of the teacher. The new role of the teacher in a PBL environment is defined by Frank, Lavy, and Elata (2003) as when “… lecturing to passive students is replaced by encouraging motivation, tutoring, providing resources, and helping learners to construct their own knowledge” (p. 280). The traditional idea of teacher-led instruction doesn’t apply anymore; this can require teachers to rethink his/her role in the classroom which can be challenging. Teachers must also be carefully trained in order to properly implement PBL and often times the necessary professional development and support are lacking.


What types of students will be successful in PBL environments?

Research shows that PBL has resulted in high levels of student engagement for both the lowest and highest level students (Belland, et al., 2006). In addition to boosting achievement, PBL benefits students by increasing their motivation and engagement. Bell (2010) claims that all students can “flourish under this child driven, motivating approach to learning and gain valuable skills that will build a strong foundation for their future in our global economy. Of course, the overall success for any student depends on the quality of the project design and the support provided throughout the project which places a great deal of responsibility on the teacher.


Bell, S. (2010). Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. Clearing House, 83(2), 39-43. doi:10.1080/00098650903505415

Belland, B. R., Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2006). Perceptions of the value of problem-based learning among students with special needs and their teachers. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 1(2), 1-18.

Buck Institute for Education. (2016). Retrieved from

Frank, M., Lavy, I. & Elata, D. (2003). Implementing the project-based learning approach in an academic engineering course. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 13, 273–288.



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