The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning

The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning

by TeachThought Staff

Projects in the classroom are as old as the classroom itself.

“Projects” can represent a range of tasks that can be done at home or in the classroom, by parents or groups of students, quickly or over time. While project-based learning (PBL) also features projects, in PBL the focus is more on the process of learning and learner-peer-content interaction that the end-product itself.

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The learning process is also personalized in a progressive PBL environment by students asking important questions, and making changes to products and ideas based on individual and collective response to those questions. In PBL, the projects only serve as an infrastructure to allow users to play, experiment, use simulations, address authentic issues, and work with relevant peers and community members in pursuit of knowledge.

By design, PBL is learner-centered. Students don’t simply choose between two highly academic projects to complete by a given date, but instead use the teacher’s experience to design and iterate products and projects–products and projects that often address issues or challenges that are important to them.

The chart below by Amy Mayer is helpful to clarify that important difference between projects and project-based learning. Ultimately, the biggest difference is the process itself.

What’s the Difference Between “Doing Projects” and Project Based Learning ?Image attribution flickr user josekevo; The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning; © Amy Mayer, @friEdTechnology, The Original WOW! Academy, www.friEdTechnology.com Please copy and use freely!

14 Comments
  1. Ryan Sager says

    Thank you for this comparison chart it is very helpful. I’m convinced that true project based learning is the better way to teach. I’m wondering, how do you evaluate a student’s independent growth in content knowledge?

  2. […] different between projects, per se, and true PBL. This quote from the TeachThought article, “The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning“, says it well: “While project-based learning (PBL) also features projects, in PBL the […]

  3. […] the different between projects, per se, and true PBL. This quote from the TeachThought article, “The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning“, says it well: “While project-based learning (PBL) also features projects, in PBL the focus is […]

  4. […] Projects in the classroom are as old as the classroom itself. "Projects" can represent a range of tasks that can be done at home or in th  […]

  5. […] misunderstood, and one my favorite resources to share to help clarify it is the article, “The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning” from […]

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  8. Chester Draws says

    Ahh, argument by assertion.

    Projects “can be done … without team collaboration”. Well, yes, they can. So can Project Based Learning, if that’s what the teacher allows.

    What isn’t actually shown is why a project using collaboration is better than one without. Because many of us believe that collaboration leads to less learning (if three people working together do a project twice as good as one done by a solo person, have they actually learned more? In general if three people do twice as much as one person they are working two-thirds as hard).

    Nor is the method of grading specific to either. A good teacher will grade a normal project well, a bad teacher will grade a PBL one badly. How is the PBL rubric better than another type of rubric?

    And ordinary projects don’t need to be closed, without student choice. When I do them they are explicitly told that each group must do something different from the other groups. So much for every project “has the same goal”.

    Most of the assertions in the left hand column about how projects are done in school are just plain wrong. It’s easy to make your system look better than some ridiculous straw man argument about what the others do.

    1. terryheick says

      Simmer down there, Chester. Point of the graphic is to help teachers begin to make the shift from projects to PBL.

    2. Bill Jones says

      I’m with you on this one, Chester. I find PBL to “sound great” (then again, Communism “sounds great” too!) and I’m sure most teachers have used it to some level of success and enjoyment for their students. However, like you, I find this written work on the topic to be theoretical and lacking much in terms of substance.

      1. Drew Perkins says

        Hi Bill and thanks for your comment. As Terry notes below, this post is meant to be less pragmatic and more as a thought provoking starting point. As for substance, maybe this blog post is helpful: /learning/project-based-learning/using-project-based-learning-flip-blooms-taxonomy-deeper-learning/

  9. PBL | Pearltrees

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  10. […] The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning. The Difference Between Projects And Project-Based Learning by TeachThought Staff Projects in the […]

  11. […] chart below by Amy Mayer is helpful to clarify that important difference between projects and project-based […]

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