What is a ‘need to know’?

Some projects require specific skills. In PBL, a 'need to know' is the essential knowledge or skills students need to have to understand the complex real-world issue at the core of the unit.

Co-constructing the 'need to knows' with students is a vital element of PBL and encourages student choice and student voice. Remembering to reference the challenging problem or question will help students to identify what it is they will ‘need to know’.

Examples of 'need-to-knows'

For example, in a PBL unit where the challenging question might be 'How can we redesign our outside space so that people use it more productively?' Questions students' might as for further information they need to know might include:

  • What sort of things might people do in the space?
  • What plants could grow well there?
  • How might we make different furniture?
  • What colours might improve the look of the space?

The value of 'need-to-knows'

This process provides students with scaffolding for their learning and helps give them direction during PBL time. It also provides a framework for the sorts of explicit teaching that might be needed to build skills or knowledge.

For example, exposing students to multimodal texts, or teaching them how to read seed packets or plant labels effectively.

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