The High Art of a Successful Project-based Learning (PBL) Unit

Project-based Learning (PBL) is a journey into cognitive awareness that produces results. If you’re looking for successful PBL units to use in your classroom, look to Kate Parker, CFO of GoTeachGo. Her PBL units on TeachersPayTeachers cover everything needed to facilitate successful PBL instruction and engage students.

This week’s blog examines the outline of one of Kate’s PBL units:

Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design.

This unit, as with all of Kate’s PBL units from GoTeachGo, begins with an explanation of what PBL is and what it is not.

As Kate says:

“Our Goal is Simple: Be the Bridge”

It’s best to let Kate do the talking on this one:
“Project-based Learning (PBL) is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. It is a format that simultaneously develops both strategies and disciplinary knowledge bases and skills. It places students in the active role of problem-solvers confronted with an ill-structured situation that simulates the kind of problems they are likely to face in real life situations.

Many teachers want to introduce special projects or group assignments that will engage students and motivate them to take practical steps in applying knowledge. Unfortunately, many problem based learning units require too much of the teacher’s time in preparation and management. Other times, project-based units are incomplete, unfocused or uninspiring.  The soft skills, like critical thinking, are neglected—thus rendering the unit to the category of project centered, which is not project–‐based learning.


Kate’s units put students into problem-solving situations that inspire them. She also incorporates critical thinking skills for students to use while solving the problems, and offers in each unit a well-outlined, well-designed format for teachers to use.

Her PBL units are time savers, student engagers and adaptable to instructional needs. One of the many great things about Kate’s PBL units is the amount of research done. She has already found resources such as videos, photos and print sources for reference, and she has created poster displays, handouts and forms necessary for collecting data, assessing progress and evaluating outcomes. Kate’s research, references and resources save teachers enormous amounts of time so they can spend more time engaged with students.

All of Kate’s units provide integrated curriculum structures. In the unit Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design, the skills emphasized are “math, visual arts, geography, social studies, strategic planning, strong collaboration skills, critical thinking skills, critical thinking and problem-solving elements.” Every lesson begins with a review of the critical thinking skills used for learning, the critical thinking skill used the day before, and an introduction or reminder of the critical thinking skill that will be used during the current day’s lesson.

Included also in Kate’s PBL units are team building lessons for instruction and review. Her units are so comprehensive they consistently receive high rankings on TeachersPayTeachers, and the feed back she gets is stellar.

Anatomy of  Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design

This is a typical look of the table of contents in one of Kate’s PBL units:

Here is just one page of resources Kate provides in this unit, and all of her units include page after page of useful tools.

Here is an example of a data gathering handout from the unit.

And here is an example titled “Team Presentation Rubric”.

Kate’s units are so intensely comprehensive that each one could be taught for an entire school year. The great thing about her units is their adaptability to different instructional needs, and teachers will have a deal of time trying to find Project-based Learning units as well put together as Kate’s PBL units. She has spent time preparing for teachers a means to help them educate students for the 21st century. Thank you Kate!


               Visit Kate’s TeachersPayTeachers site and take a look at her work. 

She has truly brought the writing of PBL units to a high art.



posted by guest blogger Sheri Rose


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