What is Problem Based Learning (PBL)?
Problem Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. In Gold Standard PBL, Essential Project Design Elements include:
- Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills - The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
- Challenging Problem or Question - The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
- Sustained Inquiry - Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
- Authenticity - The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.
- Student Voice & Choice - Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
- Reflection - Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.
- Critique & Revision - Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
- Public Product - Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.
Why Problem Based Learning (PBL)?
Project Based Learning’s time has come. The experience of thousands of teachers across all grade levels and subject areas, backed by research, confirms that PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn -- and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career and civic life. Why are so many educators across the United States and around the world interested in this teaching method? The answer is a combination of timeless reasons and recent developments.
- PBL makes school more engaging for students. Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
- PBL improves learning. After completing a project, students understand content more deeply, remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
- PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life. In the 21st century workplace and in college, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build their confidence, solve problems, work collaboratively, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.
- PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and other present-day standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of success skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, communication in a variety of media, speaking and presentation skills, and collaboration with others. PBL is an effective way to meet these goals.
- PBL provides opportunties for students to use technology. Modern technology – which students use so much in their lives – is a perfect fit with PBL. With technology, teachers and students can connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world, and find resources and information, create products, and collaborate more effectively.
- PBL makes teaching more enjoyable and rewarding. Projects allow teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.
- PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world. Projects provide students with empowering opportunities to make a difference, by solving real problems and addressing real issues. Students learn how to interact with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces and adult jobs, and can develop career interests. Parents and community members can be involved in projects.
Unit Structure – 4 Key Phases of Implementation
Phase 1 - Plan: Develop an essential question or challenge based on an igniting event; Form working groups or teams and assign each team a subtopic; Team Planning
Phase 2 – Gather & Organize: Gather information and data from various sources including websites, textbooks, videos, articles, interviews, surveys; Organize, categorize, evaluate information and/data.
Phase 3 – Build: Combine and transform information and data to create the final product; Collect graphics, take photographs, take video appropriate for the product, synthesize and create.
Phase 4 – Share: Students demonstrate evidence of learning designed to influence others' thinking and share out with authentic audience