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Project-Based Teaching: Fine-Tuning Instructional Strategies for Deep Learning

Location: W183c

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Lecture

Monday, June 25, 10:00–11:00 am
Location: W183c

Suzie Boss   John Larmer  
Increasing adoption of project-based learning in schools worldwide challenges teachers to rethink their role as they shift from traditional instruction to student-centered learning. Seven Project Based Teaching Practices clarify the teacher’s role in high-quality PBL. Session introduces new videos to illuminate key strategies and inspire participant reflection.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Devices are not necessary for this session. However, participants who choose to engage in backchannel discussions and reflections would benefit from having a Twitter account and/or a device that allows them to use TodaysMeet (no registration required).
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Project-, problem- and challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
For Administrators:
Visionary Leadership
  • Inspire and facilitate among all stakeholders a shared vision of purposeful change that maximizes use of digital age resources to meet and exceed learning goals, support effective instructional practice, and maximize performance of district and school leaders.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Momentum for PBL is building across the U.S. and internationally as school systems look for better ways to prepare students for college, careers, and citizenship in the 21st century. However, not all projects accomplish equal results for students. Teachers who are new to PBL—and who likely never experienced PBL as learners themselves—often struggle with their role in student-centered learning. Poorly designed or facilitated projects, or projects that emphasize “fun” at the sake of academic rigor, can fall short of learning goals and cause educators, students, and stakeholders to develop a negative opinion of PBL. This can derail efforts to implement PBL across school systems, thus depriving students of experiencing this highly effective and engaging approach to digital-age teaching and learning. To increase the quality of PBL and remove the guesswork for educators, the Buck Institute for Education has developed a framework of 7 key Project Based Teaching practices that support successful teaching and learning with PBL. A new series of video case studies illustrates each practice.
This session will introduce the 7 Project Based Teaching (PBT) practices that are aligned with high-quality PBL. Based on extensive research and field study, the 7 PBT practices include: build the culture; design and plan; align to standards; manage activities; scaffold student learning; assess student learning; and engage and coach. For each practice, teachers employ a number of strategies that arise from their previous teaching experiences and their understanding of student needs and interests. For example, building the culture includes strategies such as establishing positive classroom norms, attending to the physical environment for learning, and using protocols and routines.
As a result of this session, participants will come away with:
• A thorough understanding of the 7 Project Based Teaching Practices (illustrated by videos) and why they are essential for PBL success
• Practical strategies for shifting teaching practices to reflect effective pedagogy in digital-age PBL
• A rubric to encourage reflection about the development of Project Based Teaching practices and other resources to support ongoing professional growth in Project Based Teaching


This session will begin with an entry event to spark questions from the audience about the role of the teacher in PBL.
A brief introduction will introduce the need for resources to illuminate the role of the teacher in the student-centered context of PBL.
Using video case studies as illustrations, presenters will introduce each of the 7 Project Based Teaching practices (defined by research and field study), and provide practical strategies for implementing each. Participants will use a backchannel to reflect on their own use of these practices and identify opportunities for professional growth.
Entry event (as participants arrive): Use of digital tool (such as TodaysMeet or Kahoot!) to discover participants’ questions and concerns about the role of the teacher in PBL. (5 min.)
Introduction: Presenters provide context about the need for developing a framework of Project Based Teaching practices. They explain how the framework was developed (via research and field study) in response to teachers’ questions and concerns about PBL, and how educators can access video case studies and a companion book to better understand each practice in the context of diverse school settings. (10 min.)
Project Based Teaching in practice: Short video examples and discussions illuminate each of the 7 Project Based Teaching practices. The range of examples demonstrates the opportunity for teacher voice and choice in PBL, which will be encouraged during the session by use of backchannel. Important to note: Adopting effective Project Based Teaching practices does not mean following a script or ignoring what educators already know about good teaching! (35 min.)
Reflection: Presenters share a Project Based Teaching rubric and suggest how this tool can be used for reflection or in professional development and instructional coaching. Audience will respond to reflection prompts in session backchannel. (5 min.)
Questions: Session concludes with Q&A. (5 min.)

Supporting research

Boss, S., & Krauss, J. (2014). Reinventing project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Eugene, OR: ISTE.

Boss, S. & Larmer, J. (In press). Project based teaching. Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Huberman, M., Bitter, C., Anthony, J., & O’Day, J. (2014). The shape of deeper learning: Strategies, structures, and cultures in Deeper Learning Network high schools. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Available online:

Krauss, J., & Boss, S. (2013). Thinking through project-based learning: Guiding deeper inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J., and Boss, S. (2015). Setting the standard for project based learning: A proven approach to rigorous classroom instruction. Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Suzie Boss blogs regularly for about best practices in project-based learning around the world.
John Larmer blogs regularly for the Buck Institute for Education ( about high-quality PBL.

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Suzie Boss, PBLWorks National Faculty
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John Larmer, PBLWorks

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