What is Project-Based Learning?


Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a learning activity that encourages students to work on a project to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. PBL presents an opportunity for learners to creatively apply what they have learned on a deeper level and utilize skills that will make them successful in college and beyond.


Characteristics of Project-Based Learning

Here are three characteristics of meaningful project-based learning activities that lead to deeper understanding:

1.) Inter-disciplinary

PBL often involves student research, solution building, and product construction. Students often need to use content knowledge from multiple subject areas to consider how best to create the project while providing and answer to the challenge/issue through the product. In the “real world” problems are rarely solved with knowledge from just one content area. Therefore, it can be used to demonstrate an understanding of multiple standards or outcomes.

2.) Multi-faceted

Project-Based Learning requires the application of knowledge and skills, not just recall or recognition.

Unlike rote learning that assesses a single fact, PBL is more complex and involves multiple steps. Through this process, a student follows a series of steps that help to provide structure for learning and project development. The culminating activity is the creation of a product and/or project often identified by the teacherStudent-centered

3.) Student-centered

In PBL, the teacher serves as the facilitator. Students work through the PBL process encouraged to make decisions about how best to move through the process. The teacher provides support, as needed, but independence is encouraged to promote the use of 21st-century skills.


Why Project-Based Learning?

Research on PBL proves that it increases student engagement and achievement, and helps students develop the 21st-century skills they need to succeed in their future careers.

Here are 3 reasons to incorporate PBL into your curriculum:

  • PBL is a multidisciplinary pedagogical approach that provides meaningful learning opportunities. While project-based learning can certainly be content-specific, it also provides a vehicle for integrating multiple subjects. PBL encourage students to make meaningful connections across content areas, rather than occurring in isolation.


  • PBL helps build 21st-century skills students need to succeed. PBL is an effective platform for helping students build important 21st-century skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, also known as The Four Cs of 21st-century learning.  PBL integrates the “Four C’s” into classroom teaching and learning across a variety of grade levels and disciplines.


  • PBL provides opportunities to engage students in real-world learning. PBL is a great opportunity to engage students in authentic projects and/or performance tasks that are tied to real-world careers and experiences. Real-world examples give students a deeper understanding of concepts through relevant and authentic learning experiences.


Students must be prepared to meet the demands of a global society. Project-based learning supports 21st-century student learning outcomes. Students who learn through PBL are often more engaged in the learning process and develop a deeper understanding of the content and skills required for college, work, and life beyond school.


For examples of project-based lessons that are proven to drive student achievement, take a look at Defined STEM’s project-based tasks for K-12 students.  



©2017 Defined Learning

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