by Terry Heick
We’ve clarified the difference between projects and project-based learning before. Projects are about the product, while project-based learning is about the process.
Projects are generally teacher-directed, universal, and tangent to the learning, while project-based learning is student-centered, personal, and the learning pathway itself. Put simply, it is an approach to learning rather than something to complete.
Paul Curtis recently shared this excellent visual on twitter that takes a different approach to clarifying the difference, looking at it from the perspective of curriculum planning and instructional design. A non-PBL unit will see a linear series of often tightly-scripted activities (whether lecture or not) that will ultimately culminate in a project. In PBL, there is constant checking, revising, feedback, and reflection on quality, research, literacy efforts, and quick assessment results.
Note that this is only one approach. It also could be argued that PBL isn’t linear at all except that it starts at some point, and then at another point later the class moves on. In that way, you might imagine a circle made of twisting arrows that reflect the iterative and recursive nature of authentic–and messy–project-based learning.
Thoughts, comments, or related resources in the comments below.
The Difference Between Doing Projects Versus Learning Through Projects