Essential Information About Project Based Learning

Who doesn’t like to feel amazing? We live to be helpful and to be relevant. We evaluate and validate our usefulness through our interactions with others—

So why not bring these kinds of interactions into the classroom?

Project Based Learning (PBL) is the best pedagogical approach available to facilitate interactive curriculum and validate a student’s self-worth.

Within PBL structures, students collaborate in groups applying what they know and learn to assigned tasks, comparing and analyzing alternative ideas for strength and validity, and blending and synthesizing findings into something useful to others.

Students amaze themselves when experiencing success. With enough collaborative projects, they come to believe they are amazing without always relying on validation from peers.

They learn to trust themselves and their work. 

As a result, they become intelligent thinkers and self-confident individuals able to make things happen for themselves and others. They become leaders with the best of intentions not only for themselves, but for the well-being of others, too.

The Origins of PBL

Project Based Learning (PBL) began in the 1960s at the McMaster University School of Medicine in Canada. The structure enabled flexible thinking and problem-solving within collaborative groups, and enabled a deeper understanding of content while also developing an intrinsic level of self-confidence and self-worth.

These same concepts are applied to PBL structures in K-12 education because according to Jane L. David,  in her article published on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD), “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 PBL model has become one that transfers well to any learning environment. Use the information below to begin or update an understanding of PBL, and help move learning into the 21st century.

Edutopia – The PBL Authority For K-12 Education

The quest for how to implement PBL structures within a district, school or classroom begins with Edutopia. They have developed every “How-to” scenario thought of or asked about by education professionals, and they have initiated many of their own.
These links on Edutopia are great places to start.

  1. Project-Based Learning
  2. Project-Based Learning – Professional Development Guide
  3. Project-Based Learning Workshop Activities

PBL Lesson Structures that Work 

Many lesson plan sites, including Edutopia, offer resources useful to teachers; however, the most comprehensive PBL units of study have been designed by Kate Parker, CFO ofGoTeachGo. Kate’s units make implementation  of content within the PBL structure easy. You can find these lessons at Teachers-Pay-Teachers. The units provide the essential elements of what makes a PBL unit work:

  1. Thematic with Integrated Curriculum Options
  2. Each lesson driven by an Essential Question
  3. Exhaustive lists of references from various media
  4. Rubrics for peer, group and teacher evaluation
  5. Visuals such as graphs and photos to accompany each lesson
  6. Critical thinking activities
  7. Team building activities
  8. Lesson assessments used as formative assessments of progress toward unit objective
  9. Summative assessments both paper and product
  10. Product analysis as evaluation success level

The Vocabulary of Project Based Learning (PBL)

The following websites provide comprehensives vocabulary lists particular to Project Based Learning.

  1. friEdTechnology: This site provides the following PBL vocabulary with definitions and usage suggestions.
  1.  Quizlet: This comprehensive list of terms has some of the words listed on friEd Technology and more.

Innovations in PBL and Technology

Further innovations and ideas and for technology applications can be found at these two sites.

  1. MindSight: How to Reinvent Project Based Learning to Be More Meaningful
  2. New Tech Network: Project-Based Learning and New Tech Network


Recommended Reading

Graphics obtained from

  • Bethany Guillon – LinkedIn
  • Edutopia


Be sure to visit Kate’s TeachersPayTeachers site for lots of great PBL units.

Posted by Sheri Rose at 11:58 AM

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Links to this post

Labels: 21st century skillsCritical Thinkingdeconstructedevaluationformative assessment,innovative instructionPBLProblem SolvingProject Based Learningsynthesis

Posted by guest blogger Sheri Rose –  Be sure to visit Kate’s TeachersPayTeachers site for lots of great PBL units.


Close Reading, Constructed Response and The Comprehension of Content

Brief constructed responses are four to five sentence paragraphs with content grounded in evidence. All constructed responses are text-dependent. They require students to think beyond the recall of facts and use analysis, synthesis and evaluation citing evidence from the text to support their responses. Students have to think critically about what they read to produce a coherent written response, and through close readings of the text cited, they improve their comprehension of the content.


Some teachers feel uncomfortable teaching students how to write, but the short format of a constructed response along with a list of useful transition words and phrases help alleviate some of that fear. It’s important to remember that a well-written constructed response requires Close Reading. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) identify three elements important for reading comprehension that are also important to the process of Close Reading.

A constructed response includes all of these ideas and details.

CCSS – Key Ideas and Details for Reading

  1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Expeditionary Learning provides an important list of elements for what happens during Close Reading. This list is important to keep in mind when helping students write constructed responses.

Things Close Readers Do

  • Get the gist of what a text is about
  • Use the text to answer the question
  • Reread the text
  • Gather evidence (quotes) from the text
  • Annotate text
  • Focus on key vocabulary
  • Discuss to clarify  thinking and deepen understanding
  • Use the text to gather evidence for text-dependent questions

Two Ways to Understand the Essentials of a Constructed Response

There many ideas for building a constructed response, but these two are quick and easy to use and understand.                                                              



  • Restate the Question
  • Answer the Question
  • Cite Evidence
  • Explain the Answer

Here is how educator Julie Faulkner taught the RACE approach to her students:
The following sample response asked students to analyze the tone of William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say.” They were provided with the one hint that when writing about a poem or short piece, it is important to reference the author and title in the opening sentence.


Sample constructed response using RACE:

In William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say,” tone is a crucial clue in determining his sincerity.  I don’t think his apology was all that sincere.  He says, “They were delicious.” To further describe the plums that he ate, instead of saying he was story, he rubs it in that they were “sweet and so cold.”  Thus, his tone was insincere and he obviously enjoyed attempting to aggravate his wife.


Sample response deconstructed using RACE:

In William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say,” tone is a crucial clue in determining his sincerity.
  • Identify and mention the key word in the prompt/question and rephrase the question/prompt
 I don’t think his apology was all that sincere.
  • Answer the question. This ultimately becomes the thesis for the response.
He says, “They were delicious.”
  • First evidence using a citation from the original poem with a signal phrase.
To further describe the plums that he ate, instead of saying he was story, he rubs it in that they were “sweet and so cold.”
  • Second evidence using a citation from the original poem with a transition word and clear analysis.
Thus, his tone was insincere and he obviously enjoyed attempting to aggravate his wife.
  •   End the response by restating the key word or your answer for the key word. This example does both and gives a tiny bit more closure.
  1. Yes MA’AM

This is another approach from Sarah Ambler that illustrates the 4-part constructed response and offers suggestions for transition use.


The first sentence of the response should reword the question and state a personal opinion or direct response to the question.


The first “A” prompts the student to look at what the author said and to include a detail from the text to support his answer.


The second “A” reminds the student that a constructed response requires multiple supporting details from the author.


The response ends with the student (me) explaining or interpreting the significance of the evidence.

Text-Dependent Questions, Essential Questions and the Constructed Response

Example of a Text-Dependent Question

  • Could people live on Earth if there were no Sun? Why or why not? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

Example of an Essential Question from the Project Based Learning Unit Time Travelers – The Colonial X Factor – GoTeachGo.

  • How would the world be different today if our colonial settlers had better information and tools?

The text-dependent question assumes students have read what they needed to read to answer in detail the question. The essential question is broad and more thematic, but it can be made to be text-dependent.

Adapt it this way:

How would the world be different today if our colonial settlers had better information and tools? Why do you think this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

For more information about text-dependent questions, examples of constructed responses, and the comprehension of content via writing, visit these websites:


Be sure to visit TeachersPayTeachers to examine lots of great PBL units of study from GoTeachGo that incorporate all the critical thinking skills necessary to write well-written constructed responses.

Author Sheri Rose,