It's easy to get lost in the alphabet soup of academic jargon.
It's especially easy when two similar, but strikingly different teaching approaches have the same acronym – in this case, PBL. So what is the difference between Project Based Learning and Problem Based Learning?
Project based learning is standards-based: students learn skills first and then apply them. Generally, students are presented with a project and learn the skills they need to facilitate the completion of the project. Project based learning emphasizes creation (for instance, engineering a remote controlled car) over solving a larger problem.
Problem based learning is also standards-based, but it focuses on the process versus the outcome. Students are given a problem, and then given the content needed to work out real life solutions. Students are often asked to consider the ethical implications of the problem/proposed solutions. Often, Problem Based Learning has more than one acceptable outcome.
Problem Based Learning (PBL) emphasizes solving a scientific problem and can incorporate various projects during the process. The problem to be solved can be based on current events, like climate change or the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Students learn by using critical thinking skills versus learning via memorization.
Our next blog post is on Kathy Lamont, a VISTA alumnus who created a great Problem Based Learning lesson on water ecologies and had startling success with it!