5 Ways Project Based Learning Enables Intelligent Thinking

Students want to learn. Active participation motivates them to engage in the type of mental rigor required to learn. Project Based Learning (PBL) provides relevant opportunities that combine this innate desire to learn with the type of active participation that motivates students to ask the higher-level questions of how and why they arrived at their findings.


In short—PBL activities require students to think about what they are learning in an intelligent way.


The Gist of Project Based Learning (PBL)

1. More doing and less sitting and listening.

Students go beyond the hands-on as a means of production into the hands-in doing the actual work. They have to think about what they are doing, and they start asking questions that lead to greater understandings.

2. Collaborative / team building activities

Students learn to listen, analyze, and evaluate varied perspectives, while tolerance and social skills develop in the process.

3. Options for differentiated learning  through varied perspectives

Students offer autonomous participation in groups by bringing with them varied perspectives for analysis and insight. This type of examination also develops verbal communication skills as well as skills in persuasion.

4. Relevant applications of skills learned to real world situations

Students work hand-in-hand with real world situations—professionals building models, raising community awareness, or collaborating with scientists, community coordinators, and the like, in real studies.

5. Emphasizes the use of critical and creative thinking

Students engage in using critical thinking skills to make decisions and solve problems while in the creative process of looking for ways to do so.


Point of View, Varied Perspectives, and Insightful Discoveries


This week’s think-and-take lesson is on the critical thinking skill of point of view. A greater understanding of a larger problem, topic, or situation comes from examining things from various perspectives. Think of the fable The Blind Men and The Elephant.  Each blind man was able to describe the one section of the object (elephant) by touch, but none of them could tell what the object was until they combined their findings. They analyzed, synthesized, and by making connections, they discovered something new—or at least something that none of them had thought of on their own.


Or consider the story with the opposite outcome:  The Six Blind Men and China. All six men had their own perspective, but none would listen to the other, so all of them left China never really understanding the country at all.


The point—Learning how to use critical thinking skills enables intelligent thinking. Encourage your students to examine varied perspectives as an intelligent way to learn. Incorporate Project Based Learning into your instruction, and your students will thrive.


Think-and-Take Mini-Lesson #3

“Point of View”

Lesson from GoTeachGo

Critical Thinking – The Complete Starter Guide – All Grade Levels

Available on Teacher’s Pay Teachers

Each of these mini-lessons is preparing students for the critical thinking skills they will need to use in Project-Based Learning Units of study. They make great openers to read kids for class.

You teach students to find evidence to support their opinions or assertions all of the time. But when you teach them to analyze, examine, and question how others arrived at the conclusions they made, their understanding deepens and new insights are achieved. Remind your students that each day they are going to practice skills that smart thinkers use to make good decisions and solve problems. Then use each

mini-lesson as a bell-ringer, and wake your class up to a deeper level of learning. Tell your students these skills are called critical thinking skills, and remind them smart thinkers use them every day.


Other suggestions: Use the first week of instruction as an introduction to all 5 skills, teaching one per day; and revisit the skills, focusing on one per week for more intensive practice.


The Mental Checklist of all five skills will be used each week as reference in each mini-lesson. 

  • Looking for Evidence
  • Making Connections
  • Point of View
  • Considering Alternatives
  • Considering Significance



1. Write on the board the objective: Yesterday you learned about the thinking skill “Making Connections”. Today our learning outcomes are to begin developing the critical thinking skill of “Point of View” and participate in activities where you listen to and examine how other people see things and what other people think about things. (You can word this your way).


2.  Show students the Mental Checklist on the ELMO or SmartBoard. Review with students the 5 critical thinking skills, and remind them they will be practicing and learning 1 new skill each day.


  1.  Assign students to groups of 4. Distribute a sentence strip to each group with a character type on each strip. Then distribute to each group another strip with a scenario written on it.


3. Instruct students to complete the activity as a group. They will look at the character their group was assigned, read the scenario as well, and discuss how they think their character sees or feels about what is happening in the scenario. Each groups agrees on one perspective and all groups share with the class.



Character – Mom

Scenario – A boy looking over his shoulder starts to pedal his bike faster.


What might this mother be thinking?

How might she respond? Use words to describe feelings.

Why would she think this way?

What is your groups conclusion?

How did you decide on this perspective? (Encourage specific examples)


4. Ask students the following question and choose as many students as want

to share.

—“What did you learn about the way others may think about things?

—“What perspective did you think your character had about the scenario? Did your group members listen to you? How did it affect the outcome of your groups decision? Did you agree or disagree with your group members? What did you learn about how you listen when others are sharing what they think?


5. Discuss with students what they learned.

—What did you learn in this lesson?  Did you discover anything you already do that uses the skill of “Point of View”? Did we meet our lesson outcomes? What makes you say that?

—Consider asking students this question: How did thinking about the way other people see things or experience things help you understand why you made your decision?


6. End the lesson by having students write a paragraph. Have them write about the questions discussed in class. Remind them they are to write about what they learned about the skill of “Point of View”. Perhaps they can describe experiences when they had a point of view to share with their team and no one listened. How did it affect the outcome of the project? Or maybe they had success and all points of view were considered by team members who shared. How did this cooperation affect the outcome of the project? They can also write answers to any of the discussion questions as well.


Be sure to walk around as students are writing, and observe their responses while prompting them for specific details where needed.


7. Collect paragraphs from students who want you to share what they have written, and put them in one stack. Put the others in a second stack. Assure students whose paragraphs you will read that you will not read aloud their names unless they have let you know it is okay to do so.


8. On Grading: You can collect them and count them as participation points for daily grades, and have students file them in their writing portfolios daily. Then they can revisit them each week to monitor their understanding. Or you can let students keep them as a reminder of what they are learning throughout the week, and have them turn the paragraphs in each week or file them weekly and turn them all in at the end of each quarter. No matter how you assess these paragraphs, you will have gotten the students thinking about their thinking.


And that’s the objective!


Next Week’s Lesson:    “Consider Alternatives”

And if you would like to examine PBL units of study, please visit TeachersPayTeachers.


Recommended Reading for this Week:

Introducing Project-Based Learning



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