Frequently Asked Questions

All About Project Based Learning

  • What is PBL?

    Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge. Students demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.

    As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as success skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills in the context of doing an authentic, meaningful project. Project Based Learning unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers.

  • How does PBL differ from “doing projects” or “hands-on activities”?

    Project Based Learning is a more rigorous and extensive way to learn compared to a typical “project” or ”hands-on activity” that adults may remember from school. In PBL, the project is not just a lesson or an activity done after a unit of instruction; it is the unit.  PBL is not the ”dessert”—it is the “main course,” the primary way for students to learn targeted academic content and skills.

  • Does PBL work? And how does it benefit students?

    When done well, PBL has many positive results for students. It can increase student engagement and motivation, improve retention of content knowledge, provide students with real-world applications of learning, and build success skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  See more reasons why educators are introducing PBL into their classrooms.

  • What does the research say about PBL?

    Research shows that PBL can promote student learning and may be more effective than traditional instruction in social studies, science, mathematics, and literacy. The continued emergence of research findings to support PBL as a valid instructional method for all students, including those who are furthest from opportunity, is promising and growing.

    Research demonstrates that  PBL:

    • Increases students’ understanding of concepts and their ability to apply knowledge.

    • Helps students to remember what they have learned longer and to use that knowledge in new situations.

    • Teaches students how to work in teams, solve problems, and communicate what they have learned.

    • Improves student attitudes and motivation.

    Schools that use PBL, along with other programs and personalized approaches to support students, report fewer disciplinary problems, better attendance, and higher graduation rates compared to similar students in non-PBL settings.

  • Does PBL raise test scores?

    Research shows that PBL can promote student learning and may be more effective than traditional instruction in social studies, science, mathematics, and literacy.

    PBL can raise traditional standardized test scores, when done well and combined with other strategies at a school. Some studies show that PBL has less effect on test scores, but it yields other benefits that are not measured on traditional tests. Traditional tests, generally speaking, are limited to measuring students’ content knowledge and ability to do basic skills such as reading, writing, and using math procedures. A good project can be used to reinforce these skills, and provide motivation for students to practice them.

  • Does PBL require more work by teachers?

    PBL requires teachers to distribute the time they put into teaching in a different manner, but overall, it is not more demanding or time consuming. Much of the work in PBL is done when planning a project and assembling resources before students begin working. In contrast, once students have begun the project, the load on the teacher can feel lighter. In traditional instruction, the preparation to dispense knowledge and keep students busy is continual. Planning projects gets easier over time as teachers become more familiar with PBL, and they can borrow ideas from colleagues or re-use projects from previous years.

  • Does PBL require lots of changes in the school?

    PBL can be done in any classroom by a committed teacher. It can be easier, however, and more effective to do PBL in a school environment that supports it. Factors that support PBL implementation include flexible schedules, opportunities for teachers to collaborate, and administrators and a school culture that support PBL.

  • Does PBL require more money, special facilities, or technology?

    PBL can be done by skilled teachers anywhere, with no additional resources or special facilities. However, it is done more easily in large classrooms where the furniture is movable, there is storage space for keeping work, and Internet access is available. Although technology can be a tremendous tool and resource, many great projects do not require high tech software, equipment, or computers. Professional development and ongoing support for teachers and school leaders, like that provided by PBLWorks, does cost money but can be instrumental in the success of a PBL implementation effort.

  • Does PBL need to be used all the time in a school?

    Some PBL teachers use projects as their regular teaching method, but many combine PBL with other activities or more traditionally-taught units. Some teachers do several projects a year, while others may do just two or three. In elementary schools, PBL can be used alongside math and literacy programs. In secondary schools, the use of PBL often varies by subject area.

    Because it is engaging and effective for students, we believe PBL should be used to teach the core curriculum in a school or course, rather than being used only in special programs such as “Genius Hour” or Makerspaces. When PBL is used regularly, students have more opportunities to build success skills, which take time to develop.

In What Settings Does PBL Work?

  • Is PBL appropriate and effective for all students?

    All students need what PBL offers: engagement in the learning process, deeper understanding of content, and 21st century success skills. PBL has been used successfully with English Learners, students who are low-achieving, and students who are high-achieving. Teachers report that PBL is especially effective for engaging students who are below grade level and find typical schoolwork to be unmotivating, and students who may be highly skilled but bored by traditional types of assignments.

  • Is PBL appropriate for all subjects?

    Projects can be designed to teach any subject, including science, social studies/history, English language arts, and mathematics. Projects often combine more than one subject, because many real-world problems and issues are complex and must be solved through an interdisciplinary approach.

    Ultimately, it is not the subject itself that defines the appropriateness of PBL, but rather the nature of the knowledge within that subject. For instance, multiplication facts are better taught with flashcards than PBL. On the other hand, a project could be designed to help students understand more about the concept of multiplication and apply what has been learned.

  • For all grade levels?

    PBL works for students in preschool and all the way up through high school, college, and graduate school. Teachers can design and manage the projects so they meet the needs of their specific students.


  • For teaching basic skills and content knowledge?

    PBL can reinforce basic skills and content knowledge, and a good project can motivate students to read, write, and use math. PBL is less effective than traditional instruction in areas where memorization of facts or algorithms is essential, such as math facts, verb conjugation, or safety procedures in a science lab or career/tech class. Most elementary schools that use PBL also maintain literacy and math programs.

  • For students receiving special education services?

    Special Education (SPED) students enjoy and learn from working with their peers on projects, and can contribute their talents to the team. When students are working on a project in a mainstreamed classroom, the teacher and SPED staff are better able to support SPED students compared to traditional, whole-group instruction.

  • For English learners?

    A project provides an authentic context and opportunities for oral language development by students learning English as a second language, when they work with peers on a project team and connect with people beyond the classroom.

  • For students who have advanced skills?

    Advanced students can go beyond the standard curriculum and delve more deeply into a project’s topic, often pursuing personal interests. They, too, can benefit from gaining skills in real-world problem solving, collaboration, and communication with a variety of people.

  • Does PBL prepare students well for college?

    Students in a PBL school can still learn how to listen to lectures and take notes--although instruction in college is changing, with more use of interactive teaching methods, team assignments, and presentations, and even PBL. Students often have difficulty in college because they haven't learned to problem-solve and take responsibility for their own learning. PBL provides students with opportunities to build these competencies, as projects require them to make decisions, monitor their progress, work with other students, and interact with adults.   

Our Services & Training

  • How are services offered during COVID-19?

    Please know that the health and well-being of the PBLWorks community is our top priority. We are continuing to monitor guidance issued by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). Read our health statement

    We’re still here! And our plans are to continue safely and effectively delivering support and services to you.

    • From now through August 31, 2021 (and possibly beyond that date), we are pausing all of our on-site training. Instead, we are offering the majority of our workshops and services in an online format. Learn more
    • In addition, our annual PBL World conference is transitioning from an in-person conference to an online event! Learn more
  • How can I find out more about workshops for teachers–including availability, pricing, and scheduling?

    PBLWorks can provide a wide range of support, from workshops & courses or individuals and small teams to workshops & ongoing support for schools & districts

    Are you starting to plan your school PD calendar? During the school year, we generally need at least 6 to 8 weeks notice for scheduling. This helps us to complete contracting and best prepare for your visit. For the summer, our service calendar is especially busy–often booked out 2 to 3 months in advance. If you’re planning ahead, we’re happy to schedule a year or more in advance.

    For more information, pricing, and next steps, let’s schedule a call.

  • Who will facilitate my workshop?

    Each workshop is facilitated by a hand-picked member of PBLWorks’ National Faculty, an expert group of PBL educators. All of our facilitators participate in ongoing, rigorous training with PBLWorks, and many also continue to work directly in schools and districts. As seasoned teachers and leaders, they are brimming with expertise, passion, and firsthand experience in PBL. 

    Each National Faculty member brings their own areas of expertise, along with a comprehensive understanding of our Gold Standard PBL model. The facilitator for your workshop will be specifically chosen based on the needs of your workshop cohort. For more information, read about our National Faculty, or get in touch.

  • What's included in a workshop for my school or district?

    Here is an overview of what to expect with your service:

    • Workshops can generally accommodate a group of up to 35 participants from your school or district.
    • Your facilitator will schedule a pre-visit phone call with your administrative contact for planning and logistics.
    • Some workshops, like the PBL 101 and Project Slices, include 35 copies of an exclusive companion workbook. You will receive these by mail in advance.
    • The length and time with the facilitator is specific to each service.

    For more details about specific workshops, get in touch to schedule a call with a member of our team.

  • After completing a PBLWorks workshop, what’s my next step?

    Once you’ve taken the first step in your PBL journey - completing the PBL 101 Workshop - it’s important to continue supporting this big shift in your teaching practice. 

    For individuals or small groups, join us at another public PBL Institute for a PBL 201 session at one of our upcoming events

    For school or district groups, your support can be more customized through services. Get in touch about options for scheduling a Sustained Support Visit for your team.

    One more suggestion! If you’re in a leadership or coaching role, we have workshops that support your specific work too. Look for a Leadership Team Workshop or Coaching Workshop at one of our public events or schedule a call to talk about bringing a workshop to your school or district.

  • What is the suggested sequence for rolling out PBL across my school or district?

    Great question! There’s really no one-size-fits-all plan for launching Project Based Learning with your students and teachers. However, there are some good suggestions to consider as you get started...

    For teachers, a common sequence is to start with the PBLWorks PBL 101 Workshop at your school or district, and then followup with two or more of our Sustained Support Visits over the next year. This gives teachers the shared foundation and ongoing support that’s needed to make this big change in teaching practice. Read more about our teacher services.

    Your leaders and coaches may be interested in specialized workshops available at our public institutes: PBL Leadership and PBL Coaching. Or maybe you’re looking for a School & District Partnership to support this system-wide change. Whatever the case, we’re here to help you learn and grow in PBL!

    Are you interested in getting started? Get in touch to talk through more details.

  • As an individual teacher or leader, how can I attend a PBLWorks workshop?

    We’d love to support your PBL journey! Attending PBL World or one of our PBL Institutes is a great option for individuals and small groups.

    Each event offers the PBL 101 Workshop–our foundational course in Project Based Learning–and may include PBL Leadership Workshops, PBL Coaching Workshop, or advanced PBL 201 sessions. Learn more here

  • How can I host a public PBL Institute in my region?

    Each year, PBLWorks partners with several school districts and organizations to host PBL Institutes across the United States and around the world. Open to public registration, each institute has specific requirements for partnership and hosting.

    If your school district or organization wants to learn more about becoming an event partner, get in touch to schedule a call with a member of our team.

    (Or if you’re looking for a workshop for just your staff, please check out our Workshops for Teachers.)

  • As an international educator, how can I work with PBLWorks?

    We’d love to support your PBL journey! Attending PBL World or one of our PBL Institutes is a great option for individuals and small groups.

    Each event offers the PBL 101 Workshop–our foundational course in Project Based Learning–and may include PBL Leadership Workshops, PBL Coaching Workshop, or advanced PBL 201 sessions. Learn more here

    Our team at PBLWorks has limited availability for services outside of the United States, but we are always happy to learn more from you! If you’re looking for workshops or events for your school or district, please get in touch to share more details.

  • How can I contact PBLWorks for more info about Services? 

    We’d love to connect with you! Simply fill out a service request form, so we can schedule a phone call – or feel free to get in touch by email [email protected].

    And if you haven’t already, be sure to take a look at our overview of PBLWorks Services & Trainings!

Online Store

  • Does PBLWorks accept exchanges or returns?

    No. All sales are final. PBLWorks is unable to accept returns or exchanges.

  • How can I get a quote on a book order?

    Start by navigating to our online store and adding the book(s) you want a quote for to your cart (Select "Add to Cart"). Next, select "Check Out", and login to the secure site to complete your Billing and Shipping Address information. Choose your shipping method and select the "Quote/Pending Order" checkbox in the Payment Information section. If your purchase order number is not ready, type “pending” in its place. Review your cart and ensure that all of the information is correct, and then select "Submit Order." Your quote will be sent to the email address you provided.

  • How do I pay via a purchase order?

    Start by navigating to PBLWorks online store and adding the book(s) you want to your cart (Select "Add to Cart"). Next, select "Check Out," and login to complete your Billing and Shipping Address information. At Check Out choose your shipping method, select the “I Wish to be invoiced" button, and provide your PO Number.

    If your purchase order number is not ready type “pending” in its place. Review your cart and ensure that all of the information is correct before you select the “ Submit Order” button at the bottom of the page.

    A confirmation will be sent to the email address you provided. It is required that you send your organization's purchase order document via fax to (415) 883-0260, email to [email protected], or mail to PBLWorks, 3 Hamilton Landing, Suite 220., Novato, CA, 94949. Your order will not be processed until this information is received, after which it will be shipped within 4 business days.

  • Does PBLWorks offer discounts?

    As a nonprofit organization we strive to offer reasonable pricing on all of its products. On occasion, we offer limited-time discounts on our books.

  • Where is my order?

    All orders are processed within 4 business days, and then shipped from our California fulfillment center. If there is a delay in your delivery, reference the email related to your purchase and select the "order status page" to find the UPS tracking information. If you are outside of the United States and there is a delay in your delivery, you should check with your local postal provider or UPS.

  • Is PBLWorks the sole-source vendor for the books in our online store?

    PBLWorks is the sole source for the following publications: PBL Starter Kit (ISBN# 978-0-9740343-2-4); PBL in the Elementary Grades (ISBN# 978-0-9740343-1-7); PBL 101 Workbook (ISBN# 978-0-9740343-9-3); PBL for 21st Century Success (ISBN# 978-0-9740343-6-2)

    This letter confirms that PBLWorks is the sole source vendor for the above publications.

Terms of Use

  • Is there a privacy policy for this website?

    At PBLWorks, we understand that privacy is important, and we are strongly committed to protecting the privacy of visitors to our websites. The Privacy Policy is designed to help you better understand the information we gather from our website and through our professional development services, how we handle the information once we gather it, whether we disclose it to anyone, and the choices you have regarding our use of, and your ability to correct, the information.

    This Privacy Policy applies when you visit our website,, or otherwise share your personally identifiable information with PBLWorks as discussed below. Please read this policy carefully. Please note that this Privacy Policy applies only to the website, and not to other companies’ or organizations’ sites to which we link. You may wish to consult the privacy policies of such sites. By visiting PBLWorks' website, you are accepting the practices described in this Privacy Policy.

  • What are the Terms of Use that I should follow when I am on the website?

    Please see this website’s Terms of Use, which govern the use of this website. The Terms provide information related to the use of all of the content and materials on this website that might have copyright, trademarks and licenses. By using this site, you signify your agreement to all terms, conditions, and notices contained or referenced herein ("Terms of Use"). If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not use this site. PBLWorks reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to modify, alter or otherwise update these Terms of Use at any time. By using this site, you agree to be bound by the modifications, alterations or updates. It is encouraged to visit the Terms of Use frequently to stay informed.

  • Can I use the materials on your website? contains copyrighted material, trademarks and other proprietary information including, text, software, photos, video, graphics, music and sound. All content included on this site, such as text, software, photos, video, graphics, music, sound, and logos, is protected by copyrights, trademarks, and other rights, which are owned and/or controlled by PBLWorks or by other parties. PBLWorks owns a copyright in the selection, coordination arrangement and enhancement of such content, as well as the content original to it. Each third-party content provider owns the copyright in content original to it.

    You may use material from this site only for your own personal, non-commercial use. This site or any portion of this site may not be modified, published, reproduced, duplicated, copied, uploaded, downloaded, posted, transmitted, sold, or otherwise exploited for any commercial purpose that is not expressly permitted by PBLWorks or expressly permitted under copyright law. In the event of any permitted copying, redistribution, or publication of copyrighted material, no changes in or deletion of author attribution, trademark legend or copyright notice shall be made. You acknowledge that you do not acquire any ownership rights by downloading copyrighted material.

    If you have any questions or want to request permission to use material, please contact us using the subject, "Terms of Use". Select material on is designated with a specific Creative Commons License. Learn more about the different types of licenses, license deeds and license code by visiting The designated YouTube license still applies for all PBLWorks and third-party videos embedded on

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