Week 8

Essential question: How does project-based learning lend itself to differentiation in the classroom?



I believe that project-based learning and differentiation go hand in hand in the classroom. Project base learning to me is when you teach students a unit by having them create a project concerning something they are learning about. According to Edtopia, “Project based learning is when students actively explore real world problems to gain a deeper understanding.” Differentiation is when you teach to the child. Differentiating instruction encourages teachers to design our learning environments to appeal to a variety of learning styles, interests, and abilities in the classroom (Willoughby, 2005). The reason I think they go hand in hand is when you use project based learning in your classroom then you also can differentiate with the project students are creating.

As Miller (2012) points out, “project-based learning naturally lends itself to differentiated instruction. By design, it is student-centered, student-driven and gives space for teachers to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways. PBL can allow for effective differentiation in assessment as well as daily management and instruction.” I believe this to be very true. I myself have used project-based learning in my classroom and differentiation with projects that I have done. The last project we did was an iMovie on a European country. The students picked a country and I gave them the criteria of what I wanted them to find. The students research the answers and wrote them down in their packets.   Once they were done with their notes they started on the iMovie. A few students who were having trouble did a google docs presentation, but most students were able to do the iMovie project. When I teach a unit, I always have students create a project to demonstrate what we are learning. I give them the criteria, but then I usually leave it up to the students how they want to present it. This way I can differentiate with my students. I may have some students who are great with the computers and they can create a PowerPoint, iMovie, keynote, or something like this. I tell the students it is up to them how they want to create it. I figure if I leave this open for the students this will more likely draw them in and get them excited for the project they are about to create.

Harris (2014) writes that project-based learning can validate and support the multiple intelligences types as described in Howard Gardener’s theory. Using project-based learning, you can touch base with all the intelligences and that will touch base with all your students. Harris (2014) adds, “Teachers are providing the necessary learning experiences that will help them function effectively in a world that is demanding more creativity, flexibility, and future oriented thinking and problem solvers.” I believe that students who are involved in their project and excited about it will more likely remember it long term, and this is what I want my students to do.











Buck Institute for Education (BIE). (2015) What is Project Based Learning? Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://bie.org/about/what_pbl

Harris, D. (2014). Meeting the needs of students with varied learning styles through project-based learning. Retrieved from http://csusm-dspace.calstate.edu/handle/10211.3/122029

Miller, A. (2012). Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-strategies-pbl-andrew-miller

Seely Brown & Adler. (2008). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. Retrieved from http://ngw.cs.colorado.edu/ bin/download/DCNM2009/Relevant+Resources/Brown-minds-of-fire.pdf

Tawfik, A., Trueman, R. J., & Lorz, M. M. (2014). Engaging non-scientists in STEM through problem-based learning and service learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 8(2), 4. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent. cgi?article=1417&context=ijpbl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2 F%2Fscholar .google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%2 6q%3Dproject%2Bbased%2Blearning%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2%26as_ylo%3D2014#search=%22project%20based%20learning%22

Willoughby, J. (2005). Differentiating Instruction: Meeting Students Where They Are, Teaching Today, Glencoe Online. Retrieved February 5, 2015, from http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/ subject/di_meeting.phtml.

3 thoughts on “Week 8

  1. Theresa, I like how you pointed out that project-based learning is designed to provide a deep understanding. I don’t know if your see this where you work, but when I do project-based learning students walk away with a deeper understanding than they would have if the materials were covered in format that didn’t require them to take responsibility. I like your iMovie project. I bet when your students complete their movies they have a really deep understanding about their European country.


  2. You and I share the same opinion about project-based learning and differentiation. PBL and differentiation naturally go hand-in-hand. Giving students freedom to choose the path they take during a project not only gives students the opportunity to capitalize on their own strengths, it also give you, the teacher, opportunity to know your students better. When this happens, differentiation becomes easier for you to plan and implement. Knowing our students is key to differentiation. The more we know about them, the more adept we become at creating meaningful lessons that meet their learning styles.


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