Subscribe for updates and inspiration!

Project or Project Based Learning?

Let’s play “Have You Ever?” Have you ever taken a shoebox and created a rainforest diorama with good old construction paper and playdough? Have you ever studied a foreign country and made a travel brochure that showcases your amazing artistic abilities and fun facts? Have you ever wandered through the forest to collect various leaves, placed those little babies in a scrapbook, and labeled them? Or if you were like my son, he wandered through Lowe’s snagged leaves from the trees in the gardening area, snapped pics of the labels on the trees, and grinned all the way home. I must tell you this was my husband’s idea and his way of helping with homework. I still think this is the most hilarious and ingenious thing those two did during his educational career, but I digress.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not making fun of any of these experiences because I have either completed them, assigned them, or helped my own children with them. These are of course examples of projects typically assigned in classrooms each year. I definitely think there is a time and place for well thought out projects, but often people confuse projects with Project Based Learning.

Project Based Learning is how students learn the very standards/goals/objectives we are trying to accomplish. This is not something we stick at the end of a traditional unit of teaching or add after everything has been taught. Instead, students learn while they are working toward the challenge presented.

Looking back at our “Have You Ever” examples, those were assigned after all the information was shared and taught by the teacher. Those projects were to show the teacher if the student understood all that had been taught or enhance the learning, after the content was given through traditional methods such as reading, lecture, etc. Project Based Learning is different. Let’s say you ask your students what can be done with a plot of ground around the school to improve the lives of the students. Through much discussion, they decide they want to grow their own herbs to add some spice to school lunches. The class tackles the challenge of developing an herb garden. They don’t wait until they have read or heard everything about gardening, instead they research and work towards the goal, learning as they go. This is authentic and developmentally appropriate. This approach provides students with the information and skills when it is needed and also provides the WHY for learning!

I put together this simple chart below to compare the traditional project to the Project Based Learning approach. Please note that I think we need projects and PBL! Not everything needs to be full-blown Project Based Learning, but we do need to understand the differences to help us make more intentional choices in our instruction.

[table id=1 /]


** Want to know more about Project Based Learning? Join me in Austin, TX on April 13 for a day of PBL training and fun! There is still time to register!



Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a Comment

Latest on Twitter

A short and sweet sesh on #PBL by @drlorielliott hosted by @dbc_inc with @burgessdave and @TaraMartinEDU It's validating to hear that so many others are taking #PBL and #inquiry and running with it!


“It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

― L.R. Knost

Project-Based Learning Anywhere FREE Webinar!
6:30 PM CT
Learn from the amazing
@drlorielliott in this special event hosted by @burgessdave
& @TaraMartinEDU

Completely free...but must register to attend.

#PBLanywhere #dbcincbooks #tlap #pbl

Project-Based Learning Anywhere FREE Webinar!
Learn from the amazing @drlorielliott in this special event hosted by @TaraMartinEDU & me!!
Completely free...but must register to attend.
Reserve your seat here
#PBLanywhere #dbcincbooks #tlap #leadlap #pbl

Hello everyone! A teacher asked for an "End of the year Scrapbook" template so, in case someone else finds it useful, here it is!

#STATUSQUODISRUPTOR: STEM Resources that can get you Started in your Cl...

5th grade PBL Expo and State Parade was a huge success! Students planned a vacation to their state with a budget and presented state facts on a parade float 🇺🇸✈️ @HumbleISD_DWE @drlorielliott


Latest on Facebook

Timeline photosYou can always find adventure in a good book.📚 #WorldBookDay ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook
Timeline photosWe love #PBLanywhere by @drlorielliott !!This book is a relevant guide for #PBL anywhere--hybrid, f2f, remote, and just in LIFE itself!📖 @burgessdave @TaraMartinEDU @burgess_shelley ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook
ESGI is the best! They want to make teachers’ lives a little sweeter! So, for the next 6 weeks, they are giving prizes and rewards to thank you! Check out these SWEET prizes!Week 1 - Starbucks for a Month - 5 WinnersWeek 2 - Summer Fun Basket - 2 WinnersWeek 3 - End of Year Activity Bundle - Everyone!Week 4 - Amazon Shopping Spree - 2 WinnersWeek 5 - iPad Pro - 1 WinnerWeek 6 - Classroom Makeover - 1 WinnerBecome an ESGI teacher by signing up for a FREE extended trial (through August 31st) using Promo Code DRLORI at and you will be AUTOMATICALLY entered to win each week! ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

© 2020 Dr. Lori Elliott | All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Designed by Kelsey Romine