PBL Is Not PB&J

Adam Fragale
Curriculum Specialist
News on September 22 2021

In writing about project-based learning and using the initialization PBL, we could not help but think of our favorite lunch, which is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, otherwise known as a PB&J. Despite the similarity in abbreviations, the two are quite different (and not just because one is a sandwich).   Think of a PB&J, what words come to mind? Conceptually, it’s a very common and basic object — not unlike a traditional classroom routine.  Just like the sandwich, it works well and gets the job done.  But, when you take a fresh look at your classroom and implement the project-based learning model, you now create a classroom of executive chefs capable of creating any meal you desire! Where PB&J is pedestrian, PBL is gourmet.

When using the PBL model in your classroom you are looking to put the learning into the hands of your students. Now, we know what you’re thinking, that you cannot just give kids the keys to the car and expect them to be expert drivers. There is involvement on your part and that is to create a project that is focused on student learning goals framed by a meaningful problem to solve or question to answer.

After that, you must provide specific guidance as to what is expected and then leave the rest up to your students. When the students are excited to tackle a meaningful problem with possible real world context, and where they get to make some decisions about the project, it increases the effectiveness of the project.

Research has shown that project-based learning can increase student motivation and retention.1 With all the technology that has entered the classroom in recent years, it gives students and teachers alike something that they can both work with to create a meaningful presentation.  They will develop a deeper understanding being a part of the creation process and teaching others about it. Here are a few reasons why PBL helps motivate students.

Students are able to gain control of their work by becoming involved in the conception to completion process.  The classroom becomes a collaborative community in which students work together sharing ideas on real world problems.  The students become more active— physically and mentally, while being encouraged to test, tinker, and create. With PBL, we give our students the time, space, and support they need to persevere, learn, and succeed. They in turn, develop passion and grit as lifelong learners.2

Let’s be real, you won’t remember the difference between a PB&J you ate years ago as compared to the one you ate most recently, but you will remember when you had that grilled chicken with pesto and melted mozzarella on fresh ciabatta bread!  Similarly, when we think back to our schooling days, we tend not to remember all the textbook material or lectures that were presented to us.  But we bet you remember that project you worked extra hard on and were so proud to display, the problem you solved, or the time you got to learn something hands-on. The gourmet sticks with us – whether it’s on a menu or in the classroom.

 


For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and remote learning support for educators with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology, tools, and strategies that can spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening.


  1. https://www.classcraft.com/blog/project-based-learning-ideas/
  2. https://k12.thoughtfullearning.com/blogpost/why-project-based-learning-motivates-students

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