Authentic Learning Strategy:

Project-Based Learning

NOTE: This strategy is part of the self-paced Design Real-World Learning Experiences Course

Project-based learning is a way to engage learners in meaningful, authentic tasks that develop content-based knowledge and important skills for success in life including critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Project-based learning is different from doing a traditional project in that it does not come after the learning but is instead the learning process itself. Learners are presented with an essential question that does not have a simple answer but does have a real-world application. Through exploring the question in collaboration with others, learners build skills and content knowledge needed to work on the project that ultimately leads to a final product they can share with a public and authentic audience. However, in project-based learning, the focus is on the learning over the product itself and requires that reflection be incorporated throughout the process. You can review more details about what a high-quality project-based learning experience looks like here.

Bright Spots

Gain inspiration from authentic examples of this strategy shared by teachers who have used them with their learners.

Creating your own Bright Spots? Let’s get them out into the world! Share yours here.

Tiny House Project

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Salad Wars Project

At the Encinitas Unified School District’s Farm Lab in San Diego, CA 6th grade students participate in a week long PBL experience where, in groups, they design a salad dressing company complete with logos, marketing materials including a jingle, and a recipe for the best salad dressing. They present their companies and dressing to judges made up of local community members. Through this learning experience they build collaboration skills and learn about starting a business as well as what it takes to get the food needed to make a salad, building a desalination plant along the way.

Snakes are Born this Way

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2nd-grade students explored snakes and the stereotypes that society has about them to produce this music video to help people overcome their fears of snakes. This project worked on critical ELA standards in writing as well as music, technology, and collaboration skills.

AbleGamerz Project

Source: High Tech High

6th grade students at High Tech Middle North County in San Diego, CA grappled with a question around how technology can create more access to economic and social opportunities for those with disabilities. Their final product was to create a tool that would support people with different physical disabilities to play video games and they exhibited their final products and research findings in a local arcade.  Learn more about this project here.

Food Truck Project

Middle School students in a Spanish class learned about food from around the Spanish-speaking world as well as the vocabulary for ordering and talking about food in Spanish. In groups, they designed a food truck to represent a specific country including the menu and a culturally appropriate design and logo. On exhibition day, they served their menu from a stand that they built to family and community members, all in Spanish. This project worked on content-area knowledge and skills as well as collaboration and critical thinking skills.

Resources

Inspired? Use the resources below to bring this learner-centered strategy to your learning community.

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