Select Page

At first glance, all of these acronyms give me a tad bit of anxiety. What are the differences? What are the similarities? Are these approaches combined? Am I way late to the party if I am just beginning to use these learning approaches? Let’s explore.

What are all of these PBL’s and CBL’s?

Okay, so I am not the only one

At the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), we’ve been keeping a list of the many types of “_____- based learning” we’ve run across over the years:

  • Case-based learning
  • Challenge-based learning
  • Community-based learning
  • Design-based learning
  • Game-based learning
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Land-based learning
  • Passion-based learning
  • Place-based learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • Proficiency-based learning
  • Service-based learning
  • Studio-based learning
  • Team-based learning
  • Work-based learning

. . . and our new fave . . .

  • Zombie-based learning (look it up!)

There are so many different types of based learning and it’s an overwhelming place to start. Luckily I have some background knowledge on PBL, but by no means do I think I’m a professional. A refresher course on three different frameworks.

First up, let’s explore…

PROJECT-Based Learning

PBL can help you as a teacher create a higher forming classroom in which you and your students form a powerful learning community focused on achievement, self-mastery, and contribution to the community.

Project-based learning seems to be our current approach. Although, I can’t think of many examples where we give students a problem and an opportunity to find the best solution. Is there an age this works best for? Are our students too young? I definitely don’t thing too young is a problem… but how can we take our summative assessments and practice critical thinking and collaboration? In mathematics we use Cognitive Guided Instruction, CGI, which is an approach to build on children’s problem-solving abilities and guide them toward an understanding of mathematical thinking. This approach puts the learning into the students hands and encourages them to solve real-world problems.

Next, let’s explore…

PROBLEM-Based Learning

To me, this seems quite similar to Project-based learning, but thanks to my COETAIL classmate, Michael Leyland’s blogpost and also the Edutopia post from earlier, I was able to learn the difference between the two PBLs. Our school is not using this method, simply for the fact that we are straying far far away from single-subject teaching.

Lastly, let’s explore…

CHALLENGE-Based Learning

Challenge-based learning is my favorite of the three, and truthfully, I have never heard of it. The approach is very similar to the planner followed in the IB PYP program. With the central idea/big idea, essential questions, guiding questions, and the challenge. The only big difference I see and that may be because of implementation, is the amount of action taken.

How can I apply PBL’s and CBL’s in my classroom?

I looked at this question through different lens’. First off through my previous experience as a grade 3 classroom teacher, and then through my experience as Technology Integration Coach.

When teaching grade 3 in an IB PYP school everything was taught though an integrated approach. We integrated across all aspects of the curriculum into the transdisciplinary theme and central idea. For the summative assessment task we used GRASPS. As an IT coach I play a different role in helping each teacher find and use the tools to create a final product.

In both roles, I feel like we are lacking on our action steps. I feel like this is where I want to go with my final project. As a grade level we will come up with the essential question and the challenge. As the teachers we can guide students to develop appropriate solutions where they can follow through and actually take action steps.

I know this weeks lesson is called the past, but I do feel like there are many aspects of these frameworks we can bring to the future… I just watched this video from Blue Planet II, Footage of a mother whale carrying her dead calf has made Blue Planet II viewers vow to never use plastic again. Which made me think about the numerous central ideas (listed below) we have on Sharing the Planet and how we as consumers are abusers of plastic… how can we take action within our learning. What can we do as 6 and 7 year olds to actively make a difference?

  • Grade 1: The choices we make have an impact on our environment
  • Grade 4: People worldwide encounter a variety of challenges, risks, and opportunities involving resources
  • Grade 5: Natural and manmade processes cause the Earth to continuously change.

This is something I would like to look into with the classroom teachers as these units do not fall until after the holiday break. What learning frameworks from the past, present, and future can we use to meet the needs of our students?

What role does technology play in all of this?

The most important question for last. 🙂

Our theory of action is that, when done well, technology and project based learning can make deeper learning happen. When students engage in deeper learning, they achieve academically and develop deeper learning knowledge, skills and beliefs, including: critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, communication, self-directed learning, and an academic mindset.

I believe this relates deeply back to last weeks reflection of SAMR, TPAK, and T3. With our goals as educators and technology teachers, I believe that my goal as an educator is to help students become 21st-century learners. Becoming a 21st-century learner takes many different approaches and depends on the style of the learner. Technology increases engagement and allows students to inquire and search for problems to solve independently.

Below, is an example of commonly integrated technology tools into PBL from p21.

PBL Technology Integration

Essential Project Design Elements  Technology Tool  Deeper Learning 
What are the essential design elements of PBL? What technology tools are aligned to the PBL essential design element? How can this technology tool help to develop Deeper Learning competencies?
Challenging Problem or Question 

Problems or questions with the right level of challenge, structure, and doable steps that ignite students’ interest and helps student achieve project goals through sustained inquiry 

Videos or photos that provoke interest in a topic can be useful to ignite students’ curiosity and frame a problem or question in a way that moves students to action.  Consider: TeacherTubeor TED Ed, or use Skype orGoogle Hangouts to launch your lesson with a guest speaker. r Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

Sustained Inquiry 

Carefully orchestrated structures promote student engagement in responding to a challenging problem or question over the course of weeks

Teachers can use current news articles to sustain inquiry, usingNewsela, which offers daily news articles from major publications in English and Spanish at five different reading levels for students in grades 2-12. x Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

Authenticity 

Making learning experiences real by creating real contexts and tasks; have real; impact, or that have personal relevance 

Teachers can design authentic projects, using NextLesson’sInterestID to identify K-12 student’s likes and dislikes for interests in over 30 categories, ranging from careers to amusement parks. x Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

Student Voice & Choice 

Opportunities for students to exercise judgment, make decisions about how to resolve the problem, voice their ideas, and make choices about their learning 

Teachers can use Project Foundry to help students manage, archive, and showcase projects. Teachers can sign up for a classroom Google account to use Google Docs for students to work collaboratively on their projects, archive project documents, and manage their work. r Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

Reflection 

Opportunities for students to think about their thinking in aligned to specific subject-appropriate thought 

Student blogging platforms, such as KidBblogedublogs, and Weebly offer students virtual spaces to reflect on their projects in writing throughout projects. Students can also comment on one another’s posts. r Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

Critique & Revision 

Built in checkpoints for students to receive feedback from teachers or peers and opportunities to improve their work 

Teachers can use Screencast-O-Matic to provide oral feedback on students’ writing or work products, a useful strategy for English Learners, students with disabilities, or struggling reading. Educurious offers students access to project and career experts who can provide real-world feedback. x Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

Public Product 

Public displays of student work products from a project that show what a student knows and can do based on what they learned in a project 

Biz Movie is a fun and engaging way to assess student learning in a project. Students in grades 3-6 show what they know and can do by creating animated movies. Students create and run movie companies, learning about entrepreneurship and business. r Master Core Content

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Collaboration

Effective Communication

Self-directed Learning

An “Academic Mindset”

So many options and different tools to try out! Has anyone had any particular successes or challenges they would like to share? Thank you!