Making a plan

Making a plan is absolutely vital to the project experience and drives deep thinking about what and how students will be learning throughout the project-based learning (PBL).

What do I need to include in my plan when developing the project-based learning?

At a bare minimum your plan should include:

  • the driving question
  • an outline of the purpose and intended learning outcomes for students focusing on the 'big ideas' and conceptual understandings
  • identified assessment opportunities and tasks
  • potential experts, audience and opportunities
  • the 'hook' or entry event
  • the culminating event and/or presentation of learning.

If you are moving from a very structured 'unit of work' approach into PBL you may like to start by planning the PBL in more detail to get a sense of how the learning and activities may unfold over the course of the project. This does not mean that your plan is fixed; it should evolve as learning takes place, new questions arise and the students' plans change.

Over time you may find you no longer need to plan out activities in such detail. Instead, you may focus on developing an overview that includes the core elements of the PBL:

  • the driving question
  • entry event
  • connections to the community
  • possible products
  • culminating event.

One strategy is to include all possible syllabus content in an overview. You can then use this as a prompt when reflecting on student learning each week and use this information to plan for the next week. This will ensure your PBL is responsive and driven by student learning.

What might a project plan look like?

Different organisations have different methods for organising or presenting information. Although you may choose to design your own template for PBL planning, the following samples are illustrations of different planning approaches and styles.

How can I get started with planning?

You can find some examples of PBL plans and planning documents here that you can download and adapt to suit your context and need.

Project planning template 1 (DOTX 54KB)

Project planning template 2 (DOTX 54KB)

Project planning template 3 (DOTX 54KB)

Project planning template 3 Sample: ES1 (Kindergarten), Term 4 2015 (DOCX 111KB)

In addition the Buck Institute for Education - PBLWorks has a great project search with examples of plans from all different stages, contexts and subject areas.

Further reading and resources

Taco Salad Film Festival Assessment Schedule High Tech High

Work That Matters – A Teacher's Guide to Project-Based Learning (Sample Project Plans, pp 92-95) High Tech High and the Innovation Unit

Work That Matters – A Teacher's Guide to Project-Based Learning (Project Planner, pp 88-91) High Tech High and the Innovation Unit

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