Project-Based Learning Essentials

globe created of circuits and gears off to the side with the globe in the centerEssential elements of any project are the necessary tools and skills required to succeed. The Project-Based Learning Essentials module will  familiarizes participants with  the essential elements, best practices, and the importance of developing a good driving question that will support the facilitation and personalized learning that happens during a project-based learning experience for students. Project-Based learning supports interdisciplinary learning and the development of 21st Century Skills for our students by aligning to multiple content areas through an authentic learning experience. 

We suggest keeping a journal to record the discussion prompts, within the modules and videos, and your responses.





Module 1: Design & Plan

What essential elements are important when designing and planning for a project-based learning opportunity? Watch this short video from the Buck Institute to learn more about the essential elements.  (~ 5 minutes)

Most resources reference 7 or 8 Essential Elements to consider when implementing project-based learning. These include:

  • curriculum content (key knowledge derived from standards),
  • 21st Century skills (sometimes considered "soft" skills that overlap with Maine's Guiding Principles),
  • need to know (the problem or project piques student curiosity and is relatable),
  • driving question (compelling, complex and open-ended question that has no single "right" answer and that guides student thinking and learning),
  • student voice and choice (project allows some student choice),
  • in-depth inquiry (sustained learning over time),
  • reflection and revision (time to self-reflect on learning and revise product is built into the project's design), and
  • audience-presented product (final product is public facing to an authentic audience).

These elements should be carefully considered when planning project-based learning. Each of these elements helps to differentiate between projects and project-based learning. 

Look over a unit of study and consider the essential elements for designing and planning a project-based learning opportunity.

  • Are any of these essential elements present?
  • What changes might you make to incorporate any/all missing essential elements into your unit of study?
Module 2: Driving Questions

Perhaps the most critcal aspect in the launch of a successful project-based learning experience is to creat the "need to know" for students through a well-crafted driving question.

How do we develop a well-crafted driving question? View this video, by PBL Simplified with Magnify Learning, to learn more about driving questions (~ 3 ½ minutes)

Driving Questions Guide (referenced in the video)

Take some time to work through the Google slides from Magnigy Learning. Peruse the sample driving questions linked on slide 12 and try out the Driving Question Brainstorm linkied on slide 16.

Addition articles and blogs to explore:

Look over a unit of study and consider what you have learned about drving questions.

  • Are there any driving questions present?
  • How might you revise existing questions to become driving questions?
  • What would be a well-crafted driving question(s) for this unit of study?
Module 3: Facilitating & Personalizing Learning

Now that you have a driving question for your unit of study. How do we facilitate the project-based learning experience for our students?

View this video by Edutopia to learn more about making and establishing real-world connections. (~ 2 ½ minutes)

Consider your unit of study and driving question, what real-world connections can you help make/support for your students to engage in during the project-based learning experience?

View these two videos to learn more about facilitating student-led learning and providing student voice and choice throughout the project-based learning experience.

View this video by Edutopia to learn more about facilitationg a student-led learning environment. (~ 3 ½ minutes)

View this video by Edutopia to learn more about enabling student voice in choice during the project-based learning experience. (~ 6 minutes)

Look over a unit of study and consider how you might build supports for facilitation and student voice and choice.

  • What changes might you make?
  • What approaches might you try?

Wrap it Up

The Essential Elements for planning and designing project-based learning opportunties.

8 circles, each containing one of the essential elements of PBL, arranged to create a large circle with PBL the 8 essesntial elements written in the center



Consider a unit of study in your curriculum, what revisions could you make that would support a Project-Based approach to learning?

What opportunities exist to connect learning through the project, within and across the content areas, to support student learning and engagement?

Now that you have completed Project-Based Learning Essentials, please complete this short questionnaire to receive your contact hour certificate.


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