The #1 Curriculum and Assessment Partner for Educators

Four Tips for Successfully Implementing Project-Based Learning Activities & Boosting Classroom Engagement

Four Tips for Successfully Implementing Project-Based Learning Activities & Boosting Classroom Engagement

“What are your current challenges with project-based learning (PBL)?” was a poll question asked during an Edmentum live webinar earlier this year on How Project-Based Learning Activities Boost Classroom Engagement. One of the top answers we received from educators in attendance was that the actual implementation of PBL activities was one of the most challenging aspects.  

During the webinar, one of Edmentum’s educational consultants, Casey Stone, former Director of CTE, Innovation, & Virtual Learning for a Texas school district, shared his experiences with successful PBL implementations.

Here are four tips for success that Casey would suggest to educators exploring the world of PBL projects:

Start with 1-2 PBL activities a year per grade

Don’t endeavor to do a PBL activity every six weeks. That’s a lot. Start with one or two PBL activities a year, and let your students grow into this type of learning. When I was building STEM campuses, we would definitely scaffold the PBL activities. We’d start with 7th graders—give them one or two PBL activities a year. Then as 8th graders, they’d get three. Don’t take on too much—take on one or two PBL projects with due diligence. That will help you have more time to collegially plan for them.

Co-plan your PBL unit with colleagues & teammates

PBL activities are interdisciplinary. A wonderful co-planning team might include a math teacher, a science teacher, an ELA teacher, maybe even a CTE teacher—all working together on one planning team. Just like students, you, as an educator, need Critical Friends who can give you meaningful feedback to help you continually improve. The more subject-matter experts you can work with, the more well-rounded of a project you can create.

Select units that connect interdisciplinary prior knowledge

Try to connect units that thematically go with what’s currently in play for your students. A strong PBL lesson takes a little more time on the front end but requires less direct oversight in the middle of learning. Selecting units that connect prior knowledge to current curriculum frees up your time and gives you the opportunity to move around the classroom and support individual students and groups as needed.

Think about maybe even doing workshops. At a small group table, you can schedule a workshop consisting of 3-5 students who need to be retaught one particular standard or one particular concept within a greater theme. It allows you to be more flexible instructionally because you have already done more planning on the front end.

Wrap up the experience with a final project

The final project is the  “shiny object” that comes out of a PBL activity. The final project can be a presentation, a diorama, a music video—anything you can think of, really. In the course of developing that final project, the students think and research. This gets students primed for engagement because they have to be engaged with the content in order to pull off a successful project.

A big piece that teachers and parents get jazzed about with PBL activities is that the students have to organize their thoughts and then articulate them—that’s what many students have trouble with. Many kids have a great imagination, but it’s the organization piece—the learning the process of taking something that’s in your mind and actualizing it; that’s one of the things we’re installing in them with the final project.

And then comes the creation piece, where students create a coherent message while recognizing who their audience is, as each audience needs a different tailored message. So, when the final project comes around, you have students thinking about the research they’ve gathered, organizing what they’ve learned, and turning what they’ve learned into a clear message for their audience

Watch the full webinar recording for How Project-Based Learning Activities Boost Classroom Engagement to learn more PBL project instructional tips and read more about how Edmentum Courseware offers 14 pre-built PBL activities that enhance student learning in STEM curriculum!