Project Based Learning; a Real Learning Experience

Project Based Learning; a Real Learning Experience” ” is an integrated learning approach. A project is meaningful if it fulfills two criteria. First, students must perceive it as personally meaningful, as a task that matters and that they want to do well. Second, a meaningful project fulfills an educational purpose. Well-designed and well-implemented PBL—————————–

Project Based Learning; a Real Learning Experience- Introduction

 A systemic teaching method that engages students in learning essential knowledge and skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed tasks and products.   In other words, a task or problem engaged in usually by a group of students to supplement and apply classroom studies. It is considered as an alternative to paper-based, rote memorization, teacher-led classrooms.

Proponents of project-based learning cite numerous benefits to the implementation of these strategies in the classroom including a greater depth of understanding of concepts, broader knowledge base, improved communication and interpersonal/social skills, enhanced leadership skills, increased creativity, and improved writing skills.

“When teachers and their students are “connected” through project based learning, the “world” becomes an indispensable curriculum resource.”-(NCF 2005)  Teachers are no longer their students’ primary sources of information. Instead, they are the designers of learning who created the conditions for the students to conduct their own inquiries, and advisers to whom learners can come as they create their product. It is in fact, also known as inquiry-based learning /inquiry-based learning, and problem-based learning.  Initially, John Dewey promoted the idea of “learning by doing in ‘My Pedagogical Creed’. It was popular at the beginning of the 20th century and again in the current century. Project-based learning has been associated with the “situated learning” perspective of James G. Greeno (2006) and on the constructivist theories of Jean Piaget.

Today, teachers around the world are designing projects for their students because they ignite a shared passion for learning in both students and staff; they foster a wide range of skills (such as time management, collaboration, and problem solving) that students will need at school, college, university, and in the workplace; and they can be tailored to suit students with a wide range of abilities and learning needs. Fortunately, designing projects help students to master the content which they are required to learn. The best way to do this is by using ‘backwards planning’. (The Teacher’s Guide to Project-based Learning). PBL provides a new life experience for collaborative learning i.e. how to share, care and come out from real situation of conflict (working in group) where a certain number of people is working to achieve a single goal.


 Objective of Project Based Learning mentioned in (Project-Based Learning ,  A  Resource for Instructors and Program Coordinators, National Academy Foundation and Pearson Foundation). Project based classroom is dynamic and interactive. Teacher is an active learner and facilitator. It starts with a problem, facts and skills in a relevant context.

 Well-designed projects ask students to:

  • Tackle real problems and issues that have importance to people beyond the classroom. Projects emanate from issues of real importance to students and adults in the community and answer the age-old student question “Why do we need to know this?”
  • Actively engage in their learning and make important choices during the project.

Projects make room for student choice and creativity while still demanding student mastery of essential content, enabling students and teachers to interact as co-learners in the experience, rather than in the traditional student-teacher relationship.

  • Demonstrate in tangible ways that they have learned key concepts and skills.

Projects provide opportunities for students to produce observable evidence that they have mastered rigorous curricular standards as they apply their learning and solve the problem at hand.  PBL empowers students with life skills i.e.  critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, and various forms of learning skills. Projects and exhibitions also provide extensive evidence of process work and self-directed learning. 

Key Points of Project Based Learning:-

  1. A project is meaningful if it fulfils two criteria. First, students must perceive it as personally meaningful, as a task that matters and that they want to do well. Second, a meaningful project fulfils an educational purpose. Well-designed and well-implemented Project Based Learning (PBL) is meaningful in both ways.
  2. In terms of making a project feel meaningful to students, the more voice and choice, the better.
  3. Teachers should design projects with the extent of student choice that fits their own style and students. On the “the more the better” end of the scale, students can decide following points:
  4. What product they will create?
  5. What resources they will use?
  6. How they will structure their time?
  7. “PBL integrates knowing and doing. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter.” Markham (2011)
  8. ‘PBL refers to students designing, planning, and carrying out an extended project that produces a publicly-exhibited output such as a product, publication, or presentation.
  9. PBL emphasizes learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary and student-centered.
  10. PBL differs from traditional inquiry by its emphasis on students’ collaborative or individual artefact construction to represent what is being learned.
  11. PBL organizes around an open-ended driving question or challenge.
  12. PBL project plan should include the essential curriculum content for the project.
  13. PBL promotes critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication, often known as “21st Century Skills.
  14. PBL promotes students to use technology in meaningful ways to help them investigate, collaborate, analyze, synthesizes and presents their learning.
  15. PBL is an effective strategy for teaching complex skills such as planning, communicating, problem solving, and decision making. ( Dr. John W. Thomas, 2000)
  16. PBL can help increase student attendance, attitude, and self-reliance. For teachers, PBL can help increase professionalism and collaboration. ( Dr. John W. Thomas, 2000)
  17. Role of student is to ask questions, build knowledge, and determine a real-world solution to the issue/question presented. PBL allows them to think rationally on how to solve problems. PBL forces students to take ownership of their success.
  18. Collecting information
  19. Developing question
  • Exploring material and discussing outcome with peers
  1. Reflecting on the result
  2. Role of teacher Project Based Learning is that of a facilitator. The instructor regulates students and ensures that students should remain focused and have a deep understanding of the concepts being investigated. The students are held accountable to these goals through ongoing feedback and assessments. We always face challenges while implementing a concept and learning new things. PBL is students’ friendly learning approach under kind guidance of a teacher to involve students in working on tasks. However, there is several questions arise for implementing PBL in real life teaching learning situation. We can also see the teachers’ role in following areas.
  3. Offer guidance on subject/theme/topic
  4. Formation of different types of learner and their performance level
  • Holding meeting for further course of action
  1. Facilitating learners in different layers of project

Teachers can also meditate on following points:-

  1. Will this project engage my students?

The Learning Futures schools use a checklist to gauge the likely engagement of students in any given project idea. We call it ‘the Four Ps of Deep Engagement’. Before going too far with an idea for a project ask yourself whether the project is:

  • Placed – is it located in a place that is important to students (e.g. their home, community, town, city or virtual environment)?
  • Purposeful – will it result in a product, service or body of knowledge that others will make use of? Will the process seem authentic to students?
  • Pervasive – will students be sufficiently engaged in the project’s activities that they’ll want to voluntarily take the learning outside school and school hours? Is it likely to broaden students’ horizons?
  • Passion-led – Does the project tap into students’ passions?
  1. Will this project engage me?

It’s important that facilitator is personally curious and involve about the project’s outcome, that s/he will learn new things from it.

  1. Will my students learn something meaningful from this project?

It’s a good idea to make a list of the things you expect your students to have learned: this should include subject content, skills, as well as attributes to be developed (e.g. confidence, resilience, and resourcefulness).( The Learning Futures school)   

During the project planning phase, teachers must make sure that the project will result in student-generated evidence of learning that aligns closely with intended skill and content standards. (National Academy Foundation and Pearson Foundation)

 Integration of Inter- Disciplinary Subjects

PBL promotes integrated learning approach in this fast growing world where technological integration requires at every step of learning. It is combined learning approach where we can integrate different subjects into one project work i.e. a language teacher asks students to prepare a project on ‘bird migration’. He enquirers other subject teacher that, is there a lesson related to nature/environment or other interdisciplinary theme or not in respective subjects. He finds several correlated lessons in different subjects. He finds that students can get good ideas from subject English (unit –Environment), Science (Diversity in Living Organism), Social Science (Natural Vegetation and Wild Life) and Mathematics (Statics). (PBL, CBSE) Teacher guides his students to collect the material/content from different subjects, students collect ideas which help student to work on the given project. This activity increases not only interest of students to read other subjects but also to give equal importance to all subjects.   PBL approach provides opportunity for the teacher to become a facilitator in real sense. He becomes the torch bearer in developing tools and techniques on how to examine and analyze issue, the information they need to collect, planning, organizing the framework of the project. The projected action will be initiated by the students.

 Difference between “Activity” and “Project”

There is much confusion among teacher about the difference between ‘activity’ and ‘project’ in regular teaching learning process. Project based learning guide developed by National Academy Foundation and Pearson Foundation clearly mentioned the difference i.e.

Students in a history class study Westward Expansion for three weeks, culminating with a “Frontier Feast” where students dress in period costumes and eat typical western fare from the era.


Students in a history class spend three weeks focused on the essential question “How did Westward Expansion impact our community?” Students learn about the period, research local connections, and design a museum exhibit featuring historical artifacts, primary source documents, and expert commentary from local historians. The exhibit is mounted in the community center lobby, and students serve as docents to the general public.


 Advantages of Project Based Learning:

  1. Rivet & Krajcki, 2004 and William & Linn, 2003 state that “research has demonstrated that students in project-based learning classrooms get higher scores than students in traditional classroom.”
  2. PBL develops responsibility, or ownership among students for their learning, their self-esteem soars. It also helps to create better work habits and attitudes toward learning.
  3. Project-Based Learning students also learn skills that are essential in higher education.
  4. PBL allows pupils to expand their minds and think beyond what they normally would.
  5. Project-Based Learning students learn skills, in fact, more than just finding answers.

 Disadvantages of Project Based Learning:-

Unplanned lessons can result in the wasting of precious class time. If the project does not remain on task and content driven the student will not be successful in learning the material.

 Assessment in Project Based Learning:-

 Assessment isn’t just about the final product.  In fact, final assessment will focus on the products that students have produced, and how they went about producing them (the process). Despite this, it is worth enough to remember that not everybody needs to produce the same product in order to demonstrate their learning. Questions that final assessment should address are followings:-

  1. Does the product meet or exceed the criteria we set at the start at the project?
  2. Has the student developed the skills required for the execution of this project?
  3. Has the student learned the curriculum content required for this project?

Ron Berger rightly states that real assessment take place when a teacher is minute observer and observes his students holistically. Teachers often mistakenly presume that a project’s final product is the only thing they should assess, which leads them to assume that they should be able to tell whether the kids learned what they needed to learn by looking at the final product.

Actually, assessing what kids know is ongoing throughout a project. The product is the motivation for learning the material, but it won’t demonstrate that they learned it all. For example, in the physics standards project, each kid only demonstrated one physics concept, so how do you know that they learned the rest of the material?

The answer to this question is that the book isn’t the assessment. You can assess what they’ve learned before the book comes out, and afterwards. In Physics Standards they gave all the students a physics test with all the concepts in it. You need to do assessment throughout the project so that when they’re doing great artistic stuff, you know that they know what they need to know. You can’t leave it all to the end.

(Ron Berger, Chief Programme Officer, Expeditionary Learning)


Blumenfeld et al. says that, “Project-based learning is a comprehensive perspective focused on teaching by engaging students in investigation. Within this framework, students pursue solutions to nontrivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, communicating their ideas and findings to others, asking new questions, and creating artefacts. Projects vary greatly in the depth of the questions explored, the clarity of the learning goals, the content and structure of the activity, and guidance from the teacher.

 The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience.

 Researched and Prepared by

Rajeev Ranjan



Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching English (PGDTE)

English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad


BA & MA (English)

Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

Email .Id:

 References and resources for further reading:-

Article, 7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning(John Larmer , John R. Mergerndoller, In Educational Leadership, Buck Institute of Education)

The Buck Institute for Education (

Using Project-Based Learning to Increase Student Engagement and Understanding March 2012(TEXAS INSTRUMENT)

Project-Based Learning,  A  Resource for Instructors and Program Coordinators(National Academy Foundation and Pearson Foundation)

PBL is consistent with best practices in instructional design. To learn more, visit ASCD’s Understanding by Design Exchange. (

PBL as an instructional strategy to create rigorous and relevant learning experiences by Dr. John W. Thomas’s (

Stanford University’s School Redesign Network includes links to many resources that help define and understand PBL. (

The Small Schools Project boasts an amazing collection of resources to assist those educators creating small learning communities and small schools where PBL can thrive. (

The High Tech High network features schools designed to support PBL in the classroom.


Project Examples

PBL at NAF, Digital Storytelling for Academy Students and Instructors

( The NAF/Pearson Foundation Digital Storytelling Project is modelled on exemplary PBL principles.

What Kids Can Do ( This national nonprofit organization focused on student voice has links to several outstanding projects in their “projects and products” section (under “Student Work & Voice”).

STEPs (link to The Standards for Teachers through Educational Projects site includes video downloads of exemplary projects.

Edutopia – The George Lucas Educational Foundation ( The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s includes video clips highlighting exemplary projects.

Great Student Work (  Educational reform expert Bob Pearlman offers links to exceptional project examples and assessments from around the globe.

Best Wishes