Project Based Learning (PBL) FAQ
What grades at Roosevelt use Project Based Learning?
Grades K – 8 all use a Project Based Learning curriculum. Kindergarteners start learning how to be good presenters and good listeners. Their first project at the beginning of the year is to create and present their All About Me posters to the rest of the class. Their classmates learn to listen attentively and then they ask questions and tell their teacher what they’ve learned about the student that just presented.
By the time students reach 6th, 7th and 8th grade, the skills they’ve learned since Kindergarten produce confident researchers, writers and presenters. If you walk into any classroom, you’ll find that the students are able to talk to anyone that asks a question about their project. That confidence comes from PBL.
Is Project Based Learning the same as Problem Based Learning?
Yes and No, but both are referred to as PBL. At Roosevelt, PBL is used as an acronym for Project Based Learning.
Project Based Learning begins with a driving question while Problem Based Learning begins with a driving problem. However, Project Based Learning can often include Problem Based Learning. For instance, one year the Roosevelt second graders were studying bees. Their driving question was “What bees make up a colony and how do they work together?” Within that lesson, the students learned about Colony Collapse Disorder in bee colonies around the world. The students were asked to hypothesize and research reasons for CCD. At that point, the lesson developed a Problem Based Learning query.
How is teacher instruction different in a PBL class?
The students study topics in depth and across different curriculum. For example, projects incorporate math, reading, writing, science concepts, researching and experimentation. The students tackle “real-world” problems. Let’s use our second graders studying bees as an example again. During their study of bees and the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the students did research on CCD as it relates to the environment and our world’s food supply, they made a model of a beehive and models of the different types of bees, made posters to display at a local grocery store to encourage people to buy ice cream made with honey and, as their final project, they made a video presentation about bees and CCD. Because the students have such a hands on focus on the material, they have a greater and lasting understanding of what they’ve learned.
As another example, when one of our 4th grade classes learned that the library’s hours and days were being reduced because of district-wide budget cuts, they wanted to do something to make books available to the school. The students organized a school-wide Book Swap. They formed a fictitious corporation with their teacher as the CEO. Other class members formed other sections of the company that mirror real company positions such as Marketing, Sales, Distribution, etc.
Each section leader was responsible for the work of their team. So, the Distribution leader worked with a team to decide on a system for collecting books. During the process, they discovered that they needed to get the input from the Sales team on how the books should be organized after they were collected. The section leaders acted as the company’s executive board and had regular meetings with the CEO to track progress. After each week of the Book Swap, the teams all met with their team leaders to report on what was working and what changes to the system needed to be made.
The students all learned what it is like to work in the real world where teamwork and adaptability is crucial to success.
What is a PBL class like?
Children are not usually seated in rows looking towards the front of the room. Rather, they are seated in groups and students in the lower grades are often sitting on the carpet. Often, there will be rubrics on the wall for children to “grade” their own work. Rubrics are charts that list what should be included in an assignment and show examples of Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good or Excellent. Students regularly present projects in front of their classmates, parents and school visitors.
Does PBL mean that my child will be bringing home projects as homework?
No! During a PBL lesson, the students are given ample time to work in their groups on their projects. The majority of the work is done in the classroom by the students. Materials are usually provided by the teacher, or the students use found objects around the campus. Occasionally a teacher will ask parents to send in some supplies. If a child is falling behind on their assigned task within the group, they may work on it during recess time, after school or at home. All of the projects are student driven. PBL only works when the students complete the assignments. Parents will not be able to use their child’s PBL projects to show off their own art, engineering or research skills!
What is the advantage of PBL over a traditional classroom setting?
Children learn to work independently as well as in cooperative groups. Because each project usually ends with either a group or individual presentation, the children learn to develop public speaking skills. The children also learn to do their own research about a topic. Instead of solely reading a textbook, the children have the opportunity to discover the answers to questions themselves. PBL also allows for differentiated instruction because children have some control over how they are going to complete a project. PBL also incorporates teaching to multiple intelligences and learning styles. For example, if your child is a kinesthetic learner (someone who learns better by “doing” rather than reading), he/she will benefit from PBL because of the hands-on approach to learning. Likewise, if your child is an auditory learner (someone who learns better by listening), he/she will benefit from PBL because of the oral presentation aspect of PBL.
For a better understanding of PBL, here’s a good (and quick) video to describe how it works: