Does Your Teaching Have the 4 Categories of High Quality PBL?

Project Based Learning (PBL) is increasingly recognized as a powerful instructional practice, both in the United States and around the world. More and more educators are trying to use project-based methods to engage their students toward meaningful, deeper learning. Currently, there is no collectively-developed, widely-accepted high-quality PBL Framework to guide aspiring educators.

A team of educators from around the world is working to fill that void and is creating a Framework for High Quality PBL (HQ PBL). The goal of the HQ PBL project is to collaboratively draft, iterate upon and ultimately share a framework that can be used by educators to inform and improve their PBL practice, professional development and projects.

The HQ PBL team is seeking potential school case study sites to highlight in the final draft of the Framework. Know of a school that demonstrates HQ PBL purposes, processes, products and/or principles (see more on the 4 categories below)? Encourage them to fill out the following form by June 28th.

Visit the HQ PBL website to provide feedback, get involved and sign-up for monthly updates. Input that is collected will be used to inform revisions of the Framework. The first draft of the Framework was released in early 2017 and includes four HQ PBL Categories:

***The following categories are still a draft. The final Framework for High Quality PBL and corresponding categories will be released after several iterations and rounds of critique.***

Purposes. The goals of High Quality Project Based Learning are to:

  • Teach academic content knowledge and skills, and develop deeper understanding.
  • Build 21st-century success skills such as critical thinking, problem solving,
    communication, collaboration and creativity/innovation.
  • Help students become aware of their own academic, personal and social
  • Help students gain confidence for meeting new challenges in school and in life.

Processes. In High Quality Project Based Learning, students:

  • Engage in a process of inquiry over a period of time, in which they ask questions
    about what they need to learn and create, in an ever-deepening cycle.
  • Use project management practices, along with the teacher, to guide their work
    effectively from the beginning to the end of a project.
  • Gain knowledge and skills through instruction and coaching from teachers (and
    sometimes other experts), who facilitate the project to the extent necessary.

Products. High Quality Project Based Learning leads to the creation of a product such as a display, performance, or construction that is:

  •  The result of students applying their learning to achieve project goals and demonstrate knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • Made public so that others beyond the classroom can give feedback for improvement, see the results of the project and hear students reflect on what they did.
  • Improved and evaluated by the use of balanced assessment practices that include teachers and other experts, peer and self-assessment, formative and summative assessment, content and success skills, and process as well as products.

Principles. The core values that guide High Quality Project Based Learning are:

  • Educational equity, which means each learner gets what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential. All students deserve access to HQPBL.
  • Real-world authenticity, which means projects make a real impact on the world, or
    explore issues and topics relevant to students’ interests, cultures, and identities.
  • Student agency, promoted when they make decisions about what and how they learn
    and how they complete the project, and develop a growth mindset.


Stay tuned for more posts on the 4 categories, where we will unpack each one and provide examples from schools around the world, and be sure to complete the inquiry form if you are interested in participating as a case study for the HQ PBL project.

For more, see:

This blog is part of the High Quality PBL project. This project is supported by Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF) and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For more, see and follow @BIEpbl for all the latest news and resources on high-quality project-based learning and use hashtag #PBL.

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Emily Liebtag

Emily Liebtag, Ed.D., is Education Reimagined's Senior Partner for Systems Transformation. Formerly, Emily served as the Vice President of Advocacy at Getting Smart.

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