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Project-Based Learning

The Autodesk Foundation deserves credit for bringing Project-Based Learning (PBL) to the attention of educators across the country during the 1990s. Founded by Joe Oakey, former Commissioner of Education in Vermont and Micronesia and former manager of Autodesk, Inc.’s Education Department, the Foundation spread the word nationally about Project-Based Learning from 1992 until its close in 2000. The Foundation supported schools and practitioners through the Tinkertech network, and the Project-Based Learning Network, and through the annual Kids Who Know and Do conference.

While project-based learning rests on many antecedent practices, much of the practice in the 1990’s broke new ground by establishing real-world context, adult connections, student exhibitions and worldwide publication via the WWW, and authentic assessment.

I had the pleasure of leading the Foundation after Joe retired in 1996. Working with a great team that included Elizabeth Share, Judy Morgan, Sanna Randolph, Laurette Rogers, Ross Kleinberg, Eric Skjei, Dan Trimble, and Dana Erickson, our small band served as the network organizer for PBL in the 1990s. Fortunately others have now taken up the torch, including the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Buck Institute of Education.

Here are PBL resources to help you in your efforts to create great learning opportunities for kids.

PBL Schools I Like

See PBL curriculum and student work at Schools I Like such as Sir Francis Drake High School, Brookside Elementary School, San Jose Middle School, Mendocino, the North Coast Rural Challenge Network, and Napa New Technology High School.

Schools you can visit to see PBL in action

Several schools host School-Based Institutes (SBIs), where visitors can learn about and see PBL in action. In the current year 2002, unfortunately, only Napa New Technology High School has scheduled an SBI.

Napa New Technology High School Tours and Institutes, “RIGOR and RELEVANCE At New Technology High School”

Project-Based Learning on the Net

  1. What is PBL? Definition from the Autodesk Foundation
  2. Project Sites -- National and International
  3. Teachers and Students as Project Organizers and Developers

Great Student Work

Eight years after the World Wide Web was born and thousands of great student projects created and exhibited, can anyone see this great student work, or see it in a coherent and organized fashion? Unfortunately too few schools and organizations have captured this work on the WWW and made it available to their own publics and to the wider national and international publics. The Great Student Work web page is my attempt to share with you some of the best student work that you can see on the web. With your help this can be continually updated.

PBLnet email group

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PBL Information on the Net

The George Lucas Education Foundation (GLEF) has done a great job of telling the story of Project-Based Learning through stories, video and audio clips, and resources. Click on Project-Based Learning.

Online Project Libraries

Updated March, 2012

The Buck Institute of Education's Project Search is now (2012) the best source on the web for project exemplars. It includes projects from numerous PBL sources including ConnectEd, Envision Schools, Expeditionary Learning, High Tech High, West Virginia DOE, and others.

BIE's Project Libraries Page -- Links to online project libraries from the best PBL sources.

Envision Schools Project Exchange

High Tech High Project Library

Knights of Knowledge (2013) -- PBL Pioneers David Thornburg, Norma Thornburg, and Sara Armstrong have produced a terrific set of video-based inquiry starters across the curriculum, what some of us call video entry documents for project-based learning.

Best PBL Video

October Sky

PBL Math

Math Matters provides Project-Based Learning (PBL) instruction, structure, and ongoing support for math teachers in southeastern Indiana. See also the Math Matters video.


BIE Research Library and Research Archive -- The best current compilation of PBL research is provided on the Buck Institute of Education web site. (December, 2010)

Project-Based Learning Research Review, By Vanessa vega, Edutopia

Summers, E. J., & Dickinson, G. (2012). A longitudinal investigation of project based instruction and student achievement in high school social studies. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 6(1), 82-103.

Dickinson, G., & Summers, E. J. (2010). (Re)Anchored video centered engagement: The transferability of preservice training to practice. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 10(1).

Mathematics for the Moment, Or the Millennium?, By Jo Boaler, March 31, 1999. Stanford Professors Jo Boaler’s math studies in England are an example of the new research on PBL.

Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project. The final evaluation of this award-winning project yielded a significant finding when PBL students were tested on authentic projects in comparison to a control group.

This review examines research related to a teaching and learning model popularly referred to as "Project-Based Learning" (PBL). All of the research on Project-Based Learning has taken place in the past ten years and most of it in just the last few years. Since there is not a large body of PBL research, the review is inclusive rather than selective.

The review covers eight topics:

Unsung Hero Student Project Discovery Award from the Lowell Milken Center