Essential elements of Project-Based Learning
By John R. Mergendoller & John Larmer, BIE
Back in the day – September 2010 to be exact, but it feels like long ago – the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) published an article entitled “7 Essentials for Project-Based Learning” in ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine. Soon thereafter we added an eighth element, “Significant Content,” to counter stereotypes that PBL was not an effective method for teaching standards-based knowledge, understanding, and skills – and to remind teachers to design projects with a clear focus on content standards. These “8 Essential Elements of PBL” became the framework for our publications and “PBL 101” workshop, which had now been experienced by over 50,000 teachers. That article, and the hexagonal graphic below, has been widely circulated and cited over the past few years.
In 2014, however, we decided a revision was needed, and developed a more comprehensive, research-based model that we call “Gold Standard PBL.” With PBL’s growing popularity, we worried that if too many teachers and schools jumped on the PBL bandwagon without clear guidance and adequate preparation, problems will crop up. A lot of practices and curriculum materials labeled as “PBL” will not be rigorous or even truly PBL, and yield disappointing results. Some “projects” will really be only “hands-on activities.” Poorly designed and implemented projects could frustrate students, disappoint teachers, and damage PBL’s reputation. PBL could become another fad on the trash heap of failed efforts to transform education. We believe a Gold Standard PBL model will help ensure this does not happen, and we look forward to seeing high-quality projects in all classrooms, in all settings, for all students. Read more …