Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blog Post #9 What Can Teachers and Students Teach Us About Project Based Learning?

Image of a classroom using project based learning in engineering

In Seven Essentials for Project Based Learning, John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller lay out the seven essentials for project based learning by giving an example of a fictional teacher, Ms. McIntyre, who is teaching a project about water-borne bacterium to her class. The project must be meaningful and provide an educational purpose or it just ends up being "busy work".

The seven essentials for project based learning are:
  1. A Need to Know, which is an initiating and opening event to the project that grabs the attention of the students so they will want to learn more about the subject matter.
  2. A Driving Question is what introduces the students to the challenge of the project and gives them a sense of purpose. Usually the driving question is open-ended so they can think more about what the teacher has asked.
  3. Student Voice and Choice is when the teacher gives the student's the choice to use creative tools to present their project and have a voice when doing so. They can state their opinion on what topic the teacher has chosen. 
  4. 21st Century Skills is the next essential when students are split into groups so they can learn to collaborate and use technology to work together.
  5. Inquiry and Innovation is essential because students need to do research to answer their own questions about the topic and so their project can grow. 
  6. Feedback and Revision can be a perfect time for peer editing before the students present their final presentation. 
  7. A Publicly Presented Product is when the groups of students present their projects to an audience that isn't just their teacher and classmates. They care more about the quality of the assignment and will feel prouder when others enjoy it. 
"I never teach my pupils. I only attempt provide the conditions in which they can learn." Albert Einstein said this and the video Project Based Learning for Teachers by Tony Vincent showed me how important and interesting this quote was. Project based learning is so much more than the traditional burp-back education, students can become better learners when they are asked deeper and more meaningful questions. They take those questions and investigate them before reflecting on their answers.

The first video I chose was Students Solve the Problem of Watery Ketchup With A New Cap. Two students from a high school in Missouri were given a prompt by their teacher, "It really bugs me when..." and they had to find out what bugged them the most and find a solution. They chose the problem when water comes out of a ketchup bottle and it makes a mess. So they designed a piece of plastic that they used a 3D printer to print out and attached it to the bottom of the new ketchup bottle cap. It kept the water from coming out with the ketchup. The two students investigated the problem, did very in-depth research by making sure there wasn't already a patent for their idea, and presented their final project.

Project-Based Learning and Physical Education explores the opportunity of using project based learning with physical education. High school students were asked to provide the best exercise program for the middle school students. Afterwards, they were would publicly present their exercise plans to the school's administration and teachers. The seven essentials that are stated above were used in this article when using this exercise plan as an example. Above all, the project based learning exercise plan taught the high school student about team work and working together.
In The Challenges of Project Based Learning, several of the English and Mathematics teachers are having difficulties transitioning their curriculum in a project-based learning environment. They don't want to lose that certain meaningful inspiration that literature holds if it were just thrown together as a group project. Essays and research papers would be nearly impossible because neither of those are generally collaborative projects. But they've worked around the problem by asking the students to investigate and apply the themes they've seen in literature. A major goal is to be creative and think outside the box, so students can also apply these standards later in life.


  1. I think the seven essentials were very useful in helping me better understand PBL. I personally dislike burp-back education. I have done well with it in the past and passed all the test, but have trouble remembering the information later. Learning PBL style helps us to be involved and retain the information better. You have a very good thorough post.

  2. Very detailed and well laid out post.

  3. Thorough. Thoughtful. Especially well done. Thanks!