Getting Your Feet Wet with Project-based Learning (Better Learning For Schools #32)


As human-beings, we tend to learn the most when we are given something to do and a problem to solve. For example, when I visit with schools, I often challenge teachers to search their own memories of being a student and identify 2 or 3 learning experiences that they considered to be the most meaningful. It comes as no surprise that no one identifies a particular piece of content or an assessment. What they do seem to recall is being engaged and immersed in some sort of classroom challenge that required them to do something with their head and their hands.

Over the years, a number of teaching approaches and learning models have emerged that attempt to move students away from paper and pencil activities that merely require students to define, describe, summarize, and retell. Instead…these emerging, more effective classroom approaches seek to engage young people in more complex problems and project-based tasks that require learners to analyze, evaluate, critique, disseminate, invent, and create.   An increasingly utilized approach is PBL, or project-based learning, in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge from the real world (Boss, Larmer, & Mergendoller, 2013).

In a few weeks, the Buck Institute of Education—arguably the leading non-profit organization and authority on project-based learning—will release what it has entitled the Gold-Standard of PBL. I had a chance to visit with John Larmer, one of the individuals that heads up the Buck Institute. For ten years John taught high school social studies and English. He’s worked with WestEd, the National Academy Foundation, the Oracle Education Foundation, and Pearson Education. John also co-authored the widely utilized Project Based Learning Handbook. He now authors and edits project-based materials and tools for the Buck Institute. In this podcast, John and I discuss ways for educators to ‘get their feet wet’ with Project-based Learning.


Boss, S., Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2013). PBL for 21st century success: Teaching critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. Buck Institute for Education.

Markham, T., Larmer, J., & Ravitz, J. (2003). Project based learning handbook. Buck Institute for Education.

Curtis Chandler can be contacted at:

Twitter @curtischandler6
Blog:  Better Learning For Schools

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