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Home > About Us > PBL answers the proverbial question, ‘Why do I . . .?’

PBL answers the proverbial question, ‘Why do I . . .?’

Published December 21, 2020

Additional project-based learning articles:

By Tim Cannell, Education Manager

Stop reading if you’ve heard this one: “Why do I need to learn this?”

I know. Just kidding, stick with me as I try to connect this to STEM project-based learning (PBL). First, a simple definition: “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” (PBLWorks).

PBL has been around since the 1970s, and, when it’s implemented correctly, the results show greater student engagement and higher levels of deep learning. So, PBL answers the question, “Why do I need to learn this?”

To clarify, there is a difference between project-based learning and just doing projects. An easy and oft-cited understanding of the difference is to think in terms of food. Project-based learning is the main course. In other words, the project is the main focus of students as they learn the unit content. We can think of just doing a project as a dessert; it’s something we generally like to have after we eat the main course.

PBL is a model of inquiry and a pedagogy. The inquiry helps to produce learning outcomes, or what students know and are able to do. The pedagogy refers to how teachers teach; PBL is a form of pedagogy. In the overall picture, you see that the project is THE main star of the unit, and everything within the unit supports the project.

Pitsco has created two e-learning courses for STEM PBL.


This e-learning course is directly related to the STEM PBL Units developed by Pitsco. The framework of our STEM PBL Units includes a STEM challenge, authentic inquiry, student choice, applied development, and public engagement. A learner in this course will become familiar with STEM PBL, which has a focus on the engineering design process. The course also presents implementation ideas and how to successfully teach in a PBL environment.


This e-learning course is for the person who wants to create their own STEM PBL unit from scratch. The content takes the learner through the STEM PBL framework and teaches them how to develop a plan for each of the framework elements. The engineering design process, implementation ideas, and successful facilitation are also discussed.

The main difference between the two courses is that Getting Started with STEM PBL provides curriculum support for Pitsco’s proprietary STEM PBL Units, while Creating STEM PBL is for a teacher who will handle all the curriculum development and planning.

Think back to a time when you had a totally new curriculum to learn. It was work. Implementing good PBL is no different. It’s going to take work from you as the teacher. Yes, it might require you to approach your instruction differently, but you won’t have to give up everything you have done in the past. Always keep in mind that good curriculum and instruction, whether it’s PBL or something else, should produce skills and knowledge from the students.

If you’re ready head down the PBL path and help students better understand the Why, let Pitsco help you understand the Why and How of PBL.

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