Constructor Lab
Leadership Summit
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Full STEAM Ahead with Project-Based Learning

Participate and share

Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Wednesday, June 26, 1:00–2:00 pm
Location: 103A

Dr. Deborah Nagler   Dr. Martha Osei-Yaw  
This session will present project-based learning as an interdisciplinary, hands-on, approach that focuses on real world problems. Participants will use a framework to create a standards-based sample unit that can be adapted for use with their existing curriculum either in a STEM Lab or in the classroom.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Principals/head teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Project-, problem- and challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Science
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Inspire a culture of innovation and collaboration that allows the time and space to explore and experiment with digital tools.
For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

As a result of this session, participants will be able to:
- Describe the purpose and value of project-based learning;

- Identify the general structure and specific components of a STEAM project-based learning lesson/unit;

- Explain the role of the key components in the overall project-based learning lesson or unit;

- Discuss the challenges inherent in adopting a project-based learning methodology for STEM learning


1. I Spy with My Own Eyes: An Introduction to Project-based Learning
Participants identify key components of PBL by viewing and dissecting a series of photos. (5 minutes)

2. Tag-team PBL Topics on the Table: This section will be used to elicit consideration of three key challenges related to PBL, including: developing standards-based, interdisciplinary lessons; the need for collaboration and common prep time; and finding the appropriate space and facilities to support student exploration and learning.
Each topic will be subjected to a force-field analysis by the participants. In this analysis, the participants will answer three questions for each topic: What makes this a challenge? How would you rank the difficulty of the challenge? What are your suggestions for resolving the challenge?

This is a tag-team event because at the beginning of the discussion of each topic one person begins by standing in front of the room holding a card with the topic and three questions on it. This individual begins by making a statement (answering the first question). Another person "tags in" with a relevant statement. This continues as the three key questions are answered or time is called. Judges, chosen from among the participants at the beginning of the activity, will determine the winning team based on the value of the content, the degree of audience participation, and the energy of the participants. The winners receive a small PBL related prize.

If the audience is very large, we can apply a similar process using post-it notes on boards around the room. Here every audience member visits and attempts to post a unique and relevant comment building off of the initial questions and the answers of their colleagues. (15 minutes)

3. PBL Template Tryouts: Working in breakout groups of up to eight, the participants will examine elements of a PBL lesson using the Buck Institute template for project-based learning. Each group will choose a STEM lesson topic and grade level. They will address at least five of the ten elements that are required for a PBL lesson. These include: standards/key knowledge and understanding; skills that will be taught and assessed; project summary; driving questions, induction event(s); resources for the student; anticipated student product; method for sharing student products; student reflection guidelines; and final product and assessment.. Presenters will move around the room checking in with all of the groups. Both a padlet (electronic bulletin board) with resources and a shareable Googledoc of the template will be available for the participants. (20 minutes)

4. Report and Reflect: Each group will be given approximately 3 minutes to summarize their experience with building a PBL lesson.
(12-15 minutes)

5. Conclusion: The presenters will offer a recap of the session.

Supporting research

Krajcik, J.S., & Blumenfeld, P.C. (2014). Project-based learning. In R.K. Sawyer (Ed.). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 317-333.

Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J.R., & Boss, S. (2015). Setting the standard for project-based learning: A Proven approach to rigorous classroom instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Lou, S., Liu, Y., Shih, R., & Tseng, K. (2011). The senior high school students’ learning behavioral model of STEM in PBL. International Journal of Technology & Design Education, 21(2), 161–183.

Pinnell, M., Rowly, J., Preiss, S., Franco, S., Blust, R., & Beach, R. (2013). Bridging the Gap Between Engineering Design and PK-12 Curriculum Development Through the use the STEM Education Quality Framework. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations & Research, 14(4), 28–35. Retrieved from

Sahin, A., & Top, N. (2015). STEM Students on the Stage (SOS): Promoting Student Voice and Choice in STEM Education Through an Interdisciplinary, Standards-focused, Project Based Learning Approach. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations & Research, 16(3), 24–33. Retrieved from

Scogin, S. C., Kruger, C. J., Jekkals, R. E., & Steinfeldt, C. (2017). Learning by Experience in a Standardized Testing Culture: Investigation of a Middle School Experiential Learning Program. Journal of Experiential Education, 40(1), 39–57.

Stearns, L. M., Morgan, J., Capraro, M. M., & Capraro, R. M. (2012). A Teacher Observation Instrument for PBL Classroom Instruction. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations & Research, 13(3), 7–16. Retrieved from

STRIMEL, G. (2014). Authentic Education. Technology & Engineering Teacher, 73(7), 8–18. Retrieved from

Tseng, K.-H., Chang, C.-C., Lou, S.-J., & Chen, W.-P. (2013). Attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a project-based learning (PjBL) environment. International Journal of Technology & Design Education, 23(1), 87–102.

More [+]


Dr. Deborah Nagler, Gratz College
Dr. Martha Osei-Yaw, Jersey City Public Schools

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