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PBL Camp Homepage

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Saved by betty.ray@edutopia.org
on September 10, 2010 at 3:28:05 pm


PBL Camp is over! 


PBL Camp was a four-week online collaboration to give us experience in the planning and implementation of a project for students of all grade levels.  


Week One Archive

Week Two Archive

Week Three Archive 

Week Four Archive 


Week Four Activities: Prepare for Launch!


We have three big goals as we head into the final week of PBL Camp:

  1. Consider assessment strategies throughout your project
  2. Plan for your culminating event
  3. Prepare for success—avoid pitfalls


Week Four: Celebration Webinar!

Friday, August 6

1 p.m. PDT/4pm EDT


No project is complete without a culminating event, so we’re going to end this week with a celebration of our shared accomplishments. Several PBL Campers will be sharing their project plans to get things started, and then we’ll open the microphone to anyone who wants to join in, share a project idea, invite feedback, or offer reflections. Think of this event as our virtual campfire.


Listen to recording of August 6 webinar


Before we get to the celebration, however, there's more work to do!


Activity 1: Plan for Assessment

By now, you should have a fairly good idea of the learning activities that will take place throughout your project. You may have made a project calendar to show how these activities will unfold. You've also thought about the final product or presentation that students will produce to demonstrate their understanding. Perhaps you’ve considered several possible products, allowing room for student choice. (See Week Three archive for more suggestions about learning activities.) Now, it's time to plan for assessment strategies that will provide students with feedback and support throughout the project.


In project-based learning, assessment takes place throughout the project—not just at the end. As facilitator, you need to know what students are thinking and understanding. If they are confused or struggling, you may want to plan a mini-lesson to get them back on track. If they need more time because their research takes them in an unexpected direction, you may need to adjust your project calendar. You need to know not only what students are accomplishing, but how they are getting their work done. For instance, are team members sharing the load? Formative assessment will help you make adjustments as you go, adapting your teaching plan to meet student needs.


In Assessment: Continuous Learning, Lois Bridges describes five categories of assessment. Each involves different teacher behaviors. Think about when you will want to:

  • Monitor: Use checklists, inventories, or project logs to track student progress
  • Observe: Watch and listen to what students do and say
  • Interact: Ask questions to clarify what students understand and guide them to deeper thinking
  • Analyze: Collect artifacts of student learning
  • Report: Share feedback


Project tools will help you gather information and will also help students manage their own learning experience. Helpful tools for formative assessment include


  • Project logs: Useful for tracking specific tasks that need to get done to meet project goals (What’s the task? Who’s responsible? What’s the status?)
  • Journals: Useful for prompting student reflection on what they are learning and how they feel about the process
  • Status reports: Useful for helping students set goals (what do I need to accomplish?), track progress (what have I accomplished? what needs to happen next?), and identify concerns or ask questions.


When you started planning your project, you identified the big ideas that you wanted students to understand. You listed specific content standards and 21st-century skills learning goals. Assessment that happens at the end of the project will look at the progress students have made toward these goals. 


In PBL, rubrics or scoring guides define the criteria for measuring success. Many PBL teachers develop rubrics with their students, so that students understand the goals from the outset.  At a minimum, you’ll want to share your criteria with students at the start of the project and make sure your scoring guides are in student-friendly language.


More Assessment Resources


Activity2: Plan for Culminating Event

Projects typically conclude with an event that gives students a chance to share what they have learned with an authentic audience and celebrate their accomplishments. How will you conclude your project? Think about the ideal audience for this event. Will students want to invite other students, parents, community members, mentors who helped them along the way?  Is their project better suited to an online showcase or a real-time event?


Here are some examples to get you thinking.



Activity 3: Plan Ahead to Avoid Pitfalls

The heavy lifting that goes into a planning a project should make for a smoother experience once students enter the picture. It’s hard to anticipate exactly how your project will play out, of course, but project management strategies will help you and your students keep things on track.



  • ThinkQuest, an annual competition in which student teams solve real-world problems by applying their critical thinking, communication, and technology skills, offers resources and support for building successful project teams. This download describes strategies for teamwork and collaboration.


As you complete your project plan, be sure to leave room for student decision-making. Projects can fall flat if they become overly prescriptive, leading students to predictable results. Lack of student buy-in can also set up challenges—a reminder that the driving question needs to be something students care about answering.



Before you launch your project, take time to invite feedback about your plan from a critical friend. We hope you are working with a project team and providing each other with constructive suggestions. But if you are working solo, now’s a good time to reach out to a colleague or two for feedback. Talk through your project plan with them. What do they like most about it? Do they see any gaps you may have overlooked? Potential for confusion? Have you allowed enough time for what you hope students will accomplish? Will you need to build some background knowledge or skills before the project begins to prepare students?



As we reach the end of PBL Camp, this is also a good time to ask for additional help or resources that you need.  The final webinar on August 6 will include time for your questions, reflections, and feedback. You can continue to use the Edutopia Project-Based Learning group, too, to connect with colleagues and PBL advocates.




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