The Difference Between Projects & Project-Based Learning

Projects in the classroom are as old as the classroom itself.

“Projects” can represent a range of tasks that can be done at home or in the classroom, by parents or groups of students, quickly or over time.

While project-based learning (PBL) also features projects, in PBL the focus is more on the process of learning and learner-peer-content interaction that the end-product itself.

The learning process is also personalized in a progressive PBL environment by students asking important questions, and making changes to products and ideas based on individual and collective response to those questions. In PBL, the projects only serve as an infrastructure to allow users to play, experiment, use simulations, address authentic issues, and work with relevant peers and community members in pursuit of knowledge.

By design, PBL is learner-centered. Students don’t simply choose between two highly academic projects to complete by a given date, but instead use the teacher’s experience to design and iterate products and projects–products and projects that often address issues or challenges that are important to them.

The chart below by Amy Mayer is helpful to clarify that important difference between projects and project-based learning. Ultimately, the biggest difference is the process itself.

Project and Project Based Learning - differences

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