Project-Based Learning

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Updated: June, 2018

The Autodesk Foundation deserves credit for bringing Project-Based Learning (PBL) to the attention of educators across the country during the 1990s. Founded by Joe Oakey, former Commissioner of Education in Vermont and Micronesia and former manager of Autodesk, Inc.’s Education Department, the Foundation spread the word nationally about Project-Based Learning from 1992 until its close in 2000. The Foundation supported schools and practitioners through the Tinkertech network, and the Project-Based Learning Network, and through the annual Kids Who Know and Do conference. Read more.

This page highlights PBL resources to help you in your efforts to create great learning opportunities for kids.

February, 2021: Lucas Education Research releases 4 new studies demonstrating the powerful efficacy of PBL in all student learning

June, 2018: Buck Institute for Education releases new set of PBL Project Videos at PBL World, June, 2018
April, 2018: Outstanding High Quality PBL Framework created by leading PBL organizations and educators worldwide. Also see the BIE Gold Standard PBL Framework.
January, 2018: Updated listing of the best Online Project Libraries in the US and the UK
January 22, 2017: Two new papers on PBL Math by Jo Boaler. Longitudinal study shows PBL approach in Math impacts adult lives.
November 4, 2016: Does PBL hold back poor pupils in the UK?
September 24, 2016: PBL in Chile. Aprendizaje Basado en Projectos (ABP) en Chile.
August 12, 2016: Elementary Math PBL: "Take Me On Vacation"! By Alyssa Mentz, Washington Discovery Academy, Plymouth, Indiana. See Project.
May 9, 2016: Mount Vernon Presbyterian School's (Atlanta, GA) Focus for Summer+ Learning 2016-17 - Project-Based Learning. See also The Mount Vernon Continuum infographic and The MVPS I.Design Lab.
March 19, 2016: Best PBL Videos. Includes the outstanding series from edutopia and the best videos from PBL schools on their teaching and learning pedagogy and processes.

Featured PBL Video -- July 2014:

Also see each of the Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning Videos at Edutopia (Real-World Connections, Rigorous Projects, Collaboration, Facilitating Learning, and Assessment). See other PBL videos here and at BIE.

I. Top PBL Links

II. PBL Articles and Links

III. PBL Archival Pages

IV. Articles by Bob Pearlman on PBL,
21st Century Learning, and Technology

I. Top PBL Links

PBL Research

Lucas Education Research releases 4 new studies demonstrating the powerful efficacy of PBL in all student learning, February, 2021

Condliffe, B., Quint, J., Visher, M.G., Bangser, M. R., Drohojowska, S. Saco, L., and Nelson, E. (2017). Project Based Learning: A Literature Review, 1-78. New York, NY: MDRC. This review primarily includes studies published from 2015 to 2017 focused on PBL implementation and its effects on student outcomes.

PBLWorks (formerly BIE) Research Page and Research Publications

Project-Based Learning Research Review, By Vanessa Vega, Edutopia, December 3, 2012

Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A Response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006), by Cindy E. Hmelo-Silver, Ravit Golan Duncan, and Clark A. Chinn, Department of Educational Psychology, Rutgers University, EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST, 42(2), 99–107. This article is a response to Paul A. Kirschner , John Sweller & Richard E. Clark (2006) Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching, Educational Psychologist, 41:2, 75-86. Kirschner, Sweller & Clark reprised this critique in the AFT American Educator, Spring, 2012, Putting Students on the Path to Learning : The Case for Fully Guided Instruction.

Summers, E. J., & Dickinson, G. (2012). A longitudinal investigation of project based instruction and student achievement in high school social studies. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 6(1), 82-103.

Dickinson, G., & Summers, E. J. (2010). (Re)Anchored video centered engagement: The transferability of preservice training to practice. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 10(1).

Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project. The final evaluation of this award-winning project yielded a significant finding when PBL students were tested on authentic projects in comparison to a control group. See also Penuel, William & Means, Barbara & Simkins, Michael. (2000). The multimedia challenge. Educational leadership: journal of the Department of Supervision and Curriculum Development, N.E.A. 58.

This review, commissioned by the Autodesk Foundation in its final year (2000), examines research related to a teaching and learning model popularly referred to as "Project-Based Learning" (PBL). All of the research on Project-Based Learning has taken place in the past ten years and most of it in just the last few years. Since there is not a large body of PBL research, the review is inclusive rather than selective.

The review covers eight topics:

  • A definition of Project-Based Learning,
  • Underpinnings of PBL research and practice,
  • Evaluative research: research on the effectiveness of PBL,
  • The role of student characteristics in PBL,
  • Implementation research: challenges associated with enacting PBL,
  • Intervention research: research on improving the effectiveness of PBL,
  • Conclusions, and
  • Future directions for PBL research.

Online Project Libraries

Updated: January, 2018

Real Projects, Innovation Unit, UK

The Buck Institute of Education's Project Search is the best source on the web for project exemplars. It includes projects from numerous PBL sources including ConnectEd, Envision Schools, Expeditionary Learning, High Tech High, West Virginia DOE, and others. Here is a listing of other strong resources for online project libraries:

Paul Curtis' Infographics on PBL - see more at @paulscurtis on Twitter. Paul Curtis is the Director of Curriculum for the New Tech Network.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

PBL Frameworks

BIE's Gold Standard PBL Framework

High Quality PBL Framework

March, 2018 -- The Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning is based on the accumulated experience, wisdom, and research of hundreds of educators who have graciously shared their ideas and critique. It describes six criteria, each of which must be at least minimally present in a project in order for it to be judged "high quality." The presence of a criterion, however, is only a beginning. Each criterion can be judged in turn as to the quality of its implementation. Projects that are the most memorable, and that have the greatest impact on student learning and development, will be those with the highest quality implementation of each criterion. The Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning is intended to stimulate reflection and conversation about ways that projects can be improved and deepened.

With support from the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Buck Institute for Education facilitated the development of the Framework for HQPBL. The development of the Framework took twelve months and was a highly collaborative and iterative process.

PBLnet email group

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II. PBL Articles and Links

Best PBL Videos

This page includes the outstanding series from edutopia and the best videos from PBL schools on their teaching and learning pedagogy and processes.

PBL Math

Jo Boaler

Eva Reeder

Geoff Krall

Geoff Krall is a PBL Math teacher since 2007 and has been a Math Coach for the New Tech Network (NTN) for several years. Geoff is a significant blogger on Math learning and teaching practice on his blog, Emergent Math.

Elementary Math

Elementary Math PBL: "Take Me On Vacation"! By Alyssa Mentz, Washington Discovery Academy, Plymouth, Indiana, August 12, 2016. See Project.

November 4, 2016: Does PBL hold back poor pupils in the UK?

Earlier this week after the release of a new research study in the UK by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), the Times Education Supplement (tes) reported "Exclusive: Project-based learning holds back poor pupils". The study evaluated schools involved in the Real Projects initiative of the Innnovation Unit, the leading organization promoting PBL in the UK. This set off a flurry of social media attacking PBL by the education minister and traditional school advocates. PBL advocates then responded that the study did not make that conclusion, and the authors of the study actually stated that this finding was inconclusive. Check out the debate through these documents:

III. PBL Archival Pages

These are pages I created when I launched this website circa 2002. It captures the best PBL resources available on the Internet at that time and should be a valuable resource for PBL history buffs. Some of these links are now inactive, but you can resurrect these resources through the Internet Archive (the Wayback Machine). - Bob, June 2014

PBL Schools I Like

See PBL curriculum and student work at Schools I Like such as Sir Francis Drake High School, Brookside Elementary School, San Jose Middle School, Mendocino, the North Coast Rural Challenge Network, and Napa New Technology High School.

Schools you can visit to see PBL in action

Several schools host School-Based Institutes (SBIs), where visitors can learn about and see PBL in action. In the current year 2002, unfortunately, only Napa New Technology High School has scheduled an SBI.

Napa New Technology High School Tours and Institutes, “RIGOR and RELEVANCE At New Technology High School”

Project-Based Learning on the Net

Great Student Work

Eight years after the World Wide Web was born and thousands of great student projects created and exhibited, can anyone see this great student work, or see it in a coherent and organized fashion? Unfortunately too few schools and organizations have captured this work on the WWW and made it available to their own publics and to the wider national and international publics. The Great Student Work web page is my attempt to share with you some of the best student work that you can see on the web. With your help this can be continually updated.

Autodesk Foundation, continued: While project-based learning rests on many antecedent practices, much of the practice in the 1990’s broke new ground by establishing real-world context, adult connections, student exhibitions and worldwide publication via the WWW, and authentic assessment. I had the pleasure of leading the Foundation after Joe retired in 1996. Working with a great team that included Elizabeth Share, Judy Morgan, Sanna Randolph, Laurette Rogers, Ross Kleinberg, Eric Skjei, Dan Trimble, and Dana Erickson, our small band served as the network organizer for PBL in the 1990s. Fortunately others have now taken up the torch, including the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Buck Institute of Education (BIE).