CREATE Week: Project-Based Learning by Daina Lieberman

Hi!  My name is Daina Lieberman, English teacher and International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYC) Coordinator at South Lakes High School in Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia.  I am also a recent graduate of the Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Policy Studies program at The George Washington University.  Today I’d like to provide some tips on Project-Based Learning.

Hot Tips:

As an IB MYP Coordinator, I work with teachers in my building to create, implement, and assess performance-based assessments in all subject areas, including PBLs.  Project-Based Learning, or PBL, has become an important method of teaching and assessment in schools.  Instead of students being taught a unit and then creating a project, students are asked an open-ended, driving question that requires them to research and learn information to solve a problem.  Their final work may vary in form and content, but students need to collaborate, think critically and creatively, and conduct research, and demonstrate their understanding.

PBL sets up situations that allow students to solve real-world problems and create authentic solutions.  As adults, we solve our problems in the same way—if we want to buy our first house, we conduct research, ask professionals for help, take action, reflect, make adjustments, and hopefully purchase a home successfully.  Teachers need to guide students throughout their inquiry phase to ensure they are learning appropriate and factual content relevant to solving the problem and answering the driving question.

PBL is a great way to enable English language learners, special ed students, advanced students, and all other students to demonstrate their learning in ways teachers can assess and students can enjoy.  This type of assessment can be used with students at any level, including undergraduate and graduate.

Be sure when assessing PBL work that your rubric is assessing student learning, not behavior or completion.  Check in with other teachers who have conducted PBL units and look at various rubrics before creating one; ask a colleague to look it over to ensure you are assessing what you want to assess.  You can also work with your students and have them help you create a rubric to assess their work.

Have fun!

Rad Resources:

For a great definition of performance-based assessments, check out Patricia Hilliard’s article on edutopia called Performance-Based Assessment: Reviewing the Basics or this booklet from Stanford School Redesign Network called What is Performance-Based Assessment? which includes research and examples of PBAs.

Check out this page on Edutopia for articles and videos on Project-Based Learning and this Research Spotlight on Project-Based Learning by the NEA.  Resources and Tools for PBL Start to Finish on edutopia is another great page with even more resources and links to help you get started.

For more information on developing performance-based assessments and rubrics, read Doug Wren’s AEA blog post on the topic and have a look at Ross Cooper’s blog post on Project-Based Learning Professional Development (part 2): Student Created Rubrics on ASCD Edge.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching (CREATE) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of CREATE. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


2 thoughts on “CREATE Week: Project-Based Learning by Daina Lieberman”

  1. Hello Diana!
    I very much appreciate the thorough enlightenment on PBL. This is a very knowledgeable approach to furthering minds and critical thinking/processing. Having open-ended questions allows for the possible missing gap of knowledge due to dependency, to be fulfilled. You mentioned around the idea, as an adult, it is important to know the critical thinking process and questions that will occur due to buying a house, and I very much agree. Buying a house does not come with multiple choice questions so we, as adults, must know the correct information to effectively make a great investment. I will definitely keep this learning style in mind to allow myself and others to grow on many levels.

  2. Adaeze Onasanya

    Hello Daina:
    Thank you for furthering my knowledge about “Project Based Learning.” I am excited to see that many schools have adopted this form of learning and assessment. Your write-up suggests that “students are asked an open-ended, driving question that requires them to research and learn information to solve a problem. Their final work may vary in form and content, but students need to collaborate, think critically and creatively, and conduct research, and demonstrate their understanding.” I applaud this type of approach to problem solving and agree with you that this is the kind of exposure that students need given that they will face similar scenarios in life or in a work environment. However, given the open-ended and subjective nature of each student’s project, how are you able to design assessments that are objective, fair and equitable for a variety of participants. In addition, what criteria does the student use to determine what constitutes an excellent project? One last question is, “is there an age range that PBL is better suited for, or can all students (including lower elementary) benefit as well?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

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