Is It Project-Based Learning, Maker Education, or Just Projects?

Jess Peterson


Gerstein, J. (2013, October 22). Is It Project-Based Learning, Maker Education or Just Projects? Retrieved from

This article examines and explains the differences between PBL, Maker Ed, and just throwing in projects. The author makes the claim that most often, even though educators are attempting to tout their activities as PBL or otherwise, mostly, projects are really just an activity that follows direct instruction, and don’t include any form of inquiry whatsoever. She goes on to outline several conditions that must be in place in order for PBL to truly exist, and if all, or at least most conditions aren’t met, then you simply have a project, and inquiry is missing.

I liked this article because she was particularly blunt as well as clear about what makes something qualify as PBL versus what doesn’t. She carefully examines the conditions she claims are essential for PBL to occur, and thoroughly explains how educators can meet these criteria. I also really liked that she included several resources throughout, in case anyone needed or wanted further reading about the various subtopics she brings up.

Project Based Learning

DeMonte, Jennifer


Markham, T. (2011). Project based learning. Teacher Librarian, 39(2), 38-42. Retrieved from

Summary: This article discusses best practices as they relate to the implementation of project-based learning. The author also identifies the biggest roadblocks for teachers and school communities.

Though this article is on the older side, readers who are looking for inspiration and/or a rationale for implementing PBL will find this article useful. It is more theoretical than practical but provides a good jumping off point for those newer to the concept.

School Libraries, Librarians, and Project-Based Learning

DeMonte, Jennifer

ET-Project-based Learning

Foote, C. (2017). School libraries, librarians, and project-based learning. Internet@Schools, 24(1), 12-13. Retrieved from

Summary: This article details necessary qualities in both physical and online spaces for successful project-based learning to occur. The focus is on the role of the library and the librarian in supporting students throughout the process.

Great ideas to help librarians re-envision their use of physical and online spaces to help students during the inquiry process and to support collaboration between students and deep engagement with problem-solving.


How Design Thinking Can Empower Young People

Kinsella, Jason

ID (Inquiry and Design)

How design thinking can empower young people. (2013). Edutopia. Retrieved from

When it comes to design thinking, it’s helpful to see it in action. This eight-minute video documents teens who are living in a homeless shelter engage in a collaborative design thinking challenge to improve the space and services at the shelter.

I really like the way they frame design thinking as a three-step process: Dream it. Design it. Do it. I think this simplifies what may seem like a complicated process into something easily understandable. However, it is important for viewers not to forget about the reflective and iterative aspects of design thinking.

Lastly, this example of teens completing a design thinking challenge shows teens engaged in a real world problem–an essential element to the design thinking concept. This is a great resource, in my opinion, for anyone first learning about student-centered, inquiry-based teaching and learning.

Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting, and Learning

Andrighetto, Kourtney

Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3/4), 369.

CA, ET- Project-based learning


Educational theories, curriculum development, and assessment are shifting from teacher centered to student centered, project-based learning instruction. Project-based learning has gained much attention in the field of education due to self- directed learning methodologies and opportunities for students to engage in problem-solving and evaluation. This article provides an overview of project-based learning theories and how it contributes to learner motivation and relevance in the 21st-century. The authors note that in order for project-based learning to be successful, the selected topics must be high-interest and valuable to learners. In addition, project-based units must be structured to allow students opportunities for activity, creativity, and interaction with technology. When students are moving, doing, and collaborating, high-yield learning will take place.


This source provides an in-depth explanation of project-based learning theories and how technology integration may boost student learning. For teacher librarians, the discoveries in this article highlight opportunities for co-teaching and unit planning with classroom teachers across content areas.

ET-Project-Based Learning: Rigor and Relevance in High Schools

Emily Ratica


Harada, V. H., Kirio, C., & Yamamoto, S. (2008). Project-based learning: Rigor and relevance in

high schools. (Cover story). Library Media Connection, 26(6), 14-20.

This article provides an excellent introduction to and several examples of Project Based Learning. This practice fits well with the greater implementation of the inquiry process in schools. Students pick projects that extend their understanding and relate to the real world they will soon encounter, and provides them more control over their own learning. During projects, teachers become facilitators who share the educational control with their students instead of simply directing it to them. This articles shows how using projects increases student engagement and encourages students and teachers to move beyond the traditional lecture/note taking model. It also advocates for the increased role of the teacher librarian, as they can “assist the teacher with the process or thinking skills necessary for students to create meaning for themselves. The synergy of working together provides a learning frame that can be a seamless blend” (20).  Project based learning is a perfect example of how educators can better implement 21st century skills that will help students truly be college and career ready.

PBL is best done in an environment of collaboration between teacher and librarian. This article makes what feels like a complicated task, managable. The examples are thorough and doable without having a huge amount of training or experience using PBL. After reading it, I am excited to share it with my colleagues and see what projects we can work on together with our students.

Project-Based Learning: Success Start to Finish

Karen Rogers

CA = Curriculum Assessment
CO = Collaboration

 Edutopia. (2012, May 23). Project-Based Learning: Success Start to Finish. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from 
Summary:  This is a great video about Manor New Technology High School where they have a completely project-based learning program.  The video demonstrates how teachers implement and create the projects for the classroom.  It gives a great amount of information about why you should choose project-based learning and how to assess the projects.
Reflection:  This video was very useful and I think it would be a great video to show staff who have doubts about delving into project-based learning because it actually shows the planning process and thought process behind teaching in this way.  A lot of the fear around this type of learning deals with teachers not having the knowledge on how to start planning or implementing these types of lessons.  Most educators agree that this type of learning is best for helping students to engage and learn in the classroom, but they don’t know how.