Project-Based Learning Grows Steadily

June 26, 2020: Volume 27, Number 13

Project-based learning has been on a steady and steep growth trend in the U.S. and globally for the past decade, with PBLWorks seeing 15%-25% growth year-over-year in demand for its services, according to CEO Bob Lenz. In 2019, company workshops were attended by 30,000 teachers. PBL also worked with 7,000 school leaders and worked systemically with more than 20 school districts.

Lenz told EER the growth is driven by interest in engaging students in high cognitive demand activities that are relevant and meaningful to their lives, and because project-based learning is seen as a tool to address educational equity. The Common Core State Standards, with their emphasis on application of knowledge over memorization of information, accelerated the interest, he said.

PBLWorks aims to build the capacity of teachers to plan and implement project-based learning and works with administrators to help put the conditions in place for project-based learning to thrive. Considerations include infrastructure, culture, scheduling and professional development.

Lenz said project-based learning has expanded across the K-12 grades and subject areas, with teacher teams interested in doing interdisciplinary activities. With more experimentation and innovation, Lenz expects to see project-based learning cross over from early adapters to an early majority.

The demand for project-based-learning support has not stopped with the pandemic closing schools, but it has slowed from the growth of the past five years. Lenz said educators are concentrating on reopening safely and bracing for funding cuts and layoffs.

Lenz expects some schools will try to open normally for the coming school year, while some divide instruction and others prepare for learning to be online. He anticipates a hybrid mode for many with some teachers and students experiencing periods of quarantine. PBLWorks is preparing for the quarantine scenario by developing selection of two-week programs that can be implemented remotely.

“We are listening to teachers and leaders about what they will need and trying to be responsive to a situation that seems to change every week or so,” Lenz said.


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