All The Project-Based Learning Terms You Should Know

project based learning terms
Project-based learning is far and away one of the most popular strategies teachers are discussing right now. Whether it’s at conferences, on social media, or in the school hallways, it’s easy to see that this trend is not slowing down. The effectiveness of having students collaborate around projects, get their hands a bit dirty, and explore concepts with their classmates is just too good to be true. So that means it’s probably time everyone should start getting on the same page in terms of project-based learning terms.

The following public Google Doc from BIE breaks it all down for you. Here are a few of the terms for PBL that I think are most important. So if you’re looking to start or improve your PBL classroom, it’s important you know and grasp the definition and usage of these terms.

The Definition and Usage of ‘Project-Based Learning’

Definition: A theory of learning that promotes students learning by doing in order to answer a complex question.
Usage: One cannot properly say, “This is my PBL” since Project Based Learning is a verb. One would say rather, “This is the project my students are currently working on.”

The Definition and Usage of ‘Project’

Definition: All the things students will do in order to learn the standards encompassed by the Driving Question.
Usage: My students are working on their projects for the next three weeks.

The Definition and Usage of ‘Discovery Approach Learning’

Definition: Discovery Approach Learning is a type of Project Based Learning that shifts the focus away from the product, project, or presentation, and onto the learning itself.
Usage: Since we don’t have a presentation or product for this project, it would best be described as a DAL instead of PBL.

The Definition and Usage of ‘Significant Content’

Definition: Significant Content is the learning material that students will be using while creating the project. If the content is insignificant, student learning and  engagement can suffer.
Usage: I wanted to create a project around the life of one prominent historical figure, but then I realized the content was not significant enough.  I needed to broaden my scope so that all the projects wouldn’t be the same.


  1. Hhutchison

    July 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Hi! This was great information to share! I just attended PBL World in Napa Valley and learned so, so much. I do want to tell you that you may want to change your definition of the Critical Friends Protocol. This was not developed by Bucks. I am a teacher at a Friends School (it is a Quaker school) and I believe we adopted this protocol because it was so similar to Quaker process. I think it was started by the National School Reform Faculty. Just wanted to make sure they got credit. Many progressive places have adopted CFG as a way to support and professionally develop their people in a positive way. :)

  2. harlowbps

    July 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I have to deliver part of the training for my school system, can I print and copy the google doc for my staff?