Session 252: Project Based Learning

Thursday 14th May 2015

Project Based Learning (PBL) was the focus of this #UKEdChat session hosted by @MissEDutton with the session focused on the following questions:

  1. What is project based learning?
  2. Google’s 20% time in schools – (How can/) Should schools give students dedicate time to work on independent projects?
  3. How can we support project based learning, while allowing our students to remain independent?
  4. How does technology benefit project based learning?
  5. How can staff benefit from doing their own research based projects in schools?
  6. What are some examples of some outstanding student and teacher led projects you have seen in your schools?

The summary and Storify from the session can be viewed below…



Project Based Learning means different things to different teachers, and can depend on the setting where you are working, so the first question asked, “What is project based learning?Excited Educator kicked off with her own definition, “Project Based Learning is Inquiry focussed learning – where students solve real world problems!” Other considerations included: “PBL is a crucial way to extend the learning of all students via the exploration of a challenging topic/scenario/question.” (Gary King); “PBL is where Ss solve real world problems” (Kara Damm); “Project based learning is experiential learning, where students work on projects to have hands on learning.” (Qriosus LC). Gary King added, “Collaboration is key, school leaders need to make this a priority with time, otherwise it’ll be seen as a distraction.” This was backed up by Keith Hoo who had observed, “new initiatives fall flat due to lack of time to plan and collaboration, so agree whole heartedly.”

The next question focused on Google’s 20% time in schools – and how can/should schools give students dedicate time to work on independent projects? Maryse observed that, “20% would be one period a day (effectively): I’d like it but not sure the rest of the proscribed curriculum could fit”, but Bashaer Al Kilani added, “PBL should be structured in curriculum. #flippedlearning will help”. The role of the teacher in these cases is key, and Adam Lewis Hall pointed out that, “My school has projects week where kids go off timetable and some subjects come together. Tutors acts as mentors”.

Some project examples were shared by Excited Educator, including, “Includes learning a new language, creating educational apps, writing a book, organising events!” Yet Elani McDonald pointed out, “PBL learning is meaningful only when it is firmly grounded in disciplinary understanding.” The flexibility and openness of PBL is something to be celebrated, but some level of support and management is crucial for deep learning to occur – “There needs to be guidance and accountability so students don’t waste the time given to them” (Excited Educator). To ensure pupils are focused, making them accountable for their projects and learning is crucial, and setting SMART goals is an opportunity to keep them on task, with reports, or exhibitions or blogs being one way of measuring their progress.

The focus of the session progressed to ask, “How can we support project based learning, while allowing our students to remain independent?Kara Damm suggested, “Teachers s are still there to help guide Students – we are just no longer telling them how to do everything”, whilst Colin Grimes shared, “My plan is to give boundaries and let the children operate within them. Their first job is to write their own group rules”. Maryse considered, “Clear objectives in terms of skills – not outcomes and teachers clear on the curriculum objectives that can be covered”. It is important to “Create clear timescales/deadlines and encourage students to plan their time within this. Don’t be afraid if they fail to meet it” (Gary King), “It may sound mean, set students up to fail and then work back to realise how to overcome the obstacle – great for resilience too.” The key part to this process is for the teacher to become a facilitator, standing on the side-lines, happy to support but, in the main, allowing pupils to challenge and take control for themselves.

Technology is a consideration, so the next question explored how IT can benefit PBL. Maryse contributed, “use of internet for independent research, or different technology to allow different routes to investigating”, and Gail Abbitt added, “Using Google Apps, students can share their work with you, empowering them but teachers still able to monitor process”. Simon Johnson pointed out, “great thing about PBL is students can also choose if technology is appropriate or not for the task!


The session explored how staff can benefit from doing their own research projects in schools, with Gary King reminding, “Staff doing their own research projects is crucial, they can drive their own CPD through this avenue”, as Phil Ruse pointed out, “Staff action research has been hugely empowering at our school. Staff investing in themselves so Students & schools benefit”. There are many advantages to this concept, with Ezzy Moon adding, “Staff benefit from experiencing ownership of their practice + whole school community can become more cohesive from it”.

To conclude, the final question shared examples of some outstanding student and teacher led projects seen in your schools. Some ideas:

  • Have also done a rad project on their baby chicks – measuring weight gain and writing a report! (Excited Educator).
  • I recently led a town planning unit! Students loved it- included research, problem solving, 3D Model designing and more! (Excited Educator).
  • Great example of PBL from @BCPSchool as they work through the @BBCEarth Enchanted Kingdom film – See video below (Microsoft Education).
  • I remember a project entitled “We Are What We Do!” – Small actions x lots of people = big change! (Simon Johnson).
  • Cross Curricular PBL unit on sustainability where students made a real difference to their environment (Gail Abbitt).
  • Developing web sites on environment concerns and spreading awareness through it (Bashaer Al Kilani).
  • We did #CultureChat as an exploratory project – it was exploring together rather than led though (Ezzy Moon).
  • A student did a project raising awareness of mental health issues in teenagers – she recently got ThinkBig funding for it too! (Excited Educator).
  • Superhero Science- students created a superhero based on a scientific concept – one of our recent projects! (Stanley Park High).
  • Transport unit where Ss built own cars, used solar panels to run, find history of transports & more. Finished with showcase to parents (Keith Hoo).
  • We ‘crash’ the curriculum and chn spend a week in the Comp Suite. They create grn scrn and animation movies, web pages, blogs, etc (Jonathan Bailey).

BBC Earth Enchanted Kingdom: Mysterious Forests from Microsoft Education UK




Image Source: Adapted from Brenda Sherry‘s blog (click here to read about Project Based Learning), with thanks.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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