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Project-Based and Problem-Based Learning


What is It?

Project-based learning is an instructional strategy in which students work cooperatively over time to create a product, presentation, or performance. The two essential components of project-based learning are an engaging and motivating question and a product that meaningfully addresses that question.

Important characteristics of project-based learning, according to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), include the following:

  • Students can shape the project to fit their own interests and abilities.
  • Students collect and analyze information, make discoveries, and report their results.
  • Students conduct research using multiple sources of information.
  • The project cuts across a number of disciplines.
  • Students must draw on a broad range of knowledge and skills.
  • The project extends over a significant period of time.
  • The project involves the design and development of a product, presentation, or performance that can be used or viewed by others.
  • The context for the subject matter is larger than the immediate lesson.
  • The instruction and facilitation is guided by a broad range of teaching goals.

Problem-based learning is an instructional strategy in which students work cooperatively to investigate and resolve an ill-structured problem based on real-world issues or situations. The steps involved in problem-based learning include:

  • determining what the problem is;
  • creating a specific statement of the problem;
  • identifying the information needed;
  • identifying the resources to be used to find that information;
  • developing a possible solution;
  • analyzing and refining the solution;
  • presenting the final solution, orally and/or in writing.

Project-based learning and problem-based learning have a great deal in common. Both

  • involve realistic problems and situations.
  • are based on authentic educational goals.
  • include formative and summative evaluation,
  • are learner centered and teacher facilitated.
  • are intrinsically engaging and motivating.
  • are frequently multidisciplinary.
  • Improve students' research and problem-solving skills, as well as their ability to work cooperatively with their peers.

The difference between the two lies largely in their application: Problem-based learning focuses on the problem and the process, while project-based learning focuses on the product.

Explore Project-Based Learning

For more information about project based-learning, explore the following Web sites:

Explore Problem-Based Learning

For more information about problem-based learning, explore these Web sites:

Use Project-Based Learning

The activities and tools below will help you successfully use project-based learning in your own classroom.

  • A Project-Based Learning Activity About Project-Based Learning

    Project-Based Learning Activities for Kids

    Tools for Teachers

    Find planning forms, rubrics and checklists at the Buck Institute for Education's project-based learning site.

    Use Problem-Based Learning

    The activities below will help you successfully use problem-based learning in your own classroom.

    Problem-Based Learning Activities for Kids

    Exploring the Environment

    Journey North

    Learn More About Project-Based Learning

    To extend your understanding of project-based learning, visit:

    Harnessing the Web: Online Project-Based Learning

    Learn More About Problem-Based Learning

    To extend your understanding of problem-based learning, visit:

    Problem-Based Learning Network

    Education World
    Copyright © 2011 Education World

    Last updated 8/27/2011