Harris (2009) describes the power of PBL when she writes,“Project-based learning goes beyond hands-on learning by including six necessary elements": A driving question, student development of an artifact or task, collaborative research, a community of inquiry, presentation to an authentic audience, and the use of technology tools for cognition and communication (pgs. 8-9). An examination of the six elements begs for differentiation; in fact, variety and differentiation is so inherent in some of these elements that it would nearly impossible to create a one-size-fits-all PBL experience while still including the six necessary elements noted by Harris.
Similarly, Miller explains, “Project-Based Learning (PBL) naturally lends itself to differentiated instruction. By design, it is student-centered, student-driven, and gives space for teachers to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways" (2014).
Miller’s specific differentiation strategies to utilize during PBL activities include:
- Differentiating through teams
- Reflection and goal setting
- Voice and choice in products
- Differentiation through formative assessments
- Balancing teamwork and individual work
When charged with real problems and tasked with discovering real solutions, students are capable of engaging with their learning in ways we might never otherwise imagine. And when students are that engaged, there are numerous access points for us, as educators, to differentiate, customize, and personalize learning so that students can develop basic skills and grow as problem-solvers and competent young people all along the way.
Brammer, L. R., & Morton, A. (2014). Course-Based Civic Engagement: Understanding Student Perspectives and Outcomes. International Journal for the scholarship of teaching and learning, 8(1), 9. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1147&context=ij-sotl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dproject%2Bbased%2Blearning%2Bpassion%2Bbased%2Blearning%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2%26as_ylo%3D2014#search=%22project%20based%20learning%20passion%20based%20learning%22
Harris, D. (2014). Meeting the needs of students with varied learning styles through project-based learning. Retrieved from: http://csusm-dspace.calstate.edu/handle/10211.3/122029
Miller, A. (2012). Six Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-strategies-pbl-andrew-miller
Tawfik, A., Trueman, R. J., & Lorz, M. M. (2014). Engaging non-scientists in STEM through problem-based learning and service learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 8(2), 4. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1417&context=ijpbl&sei-redir=1&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dproject%2Bbased%2Blearning%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C2%26as_ylo%3D2014#search=%22project%20based%20learning%22
Teaching Channel. (Retrieved 17 Mar 2015). New Teacher Survival Guide: Differentiating Instruction. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/differentiating-instruction
Zouganeli, E., Tyssø, V., Feng, B., Arnesen, K., & Kapetanovic, N. (2014). Project-based learning in programming classes the effect of open project scope on student motivation and learning outcome. Retrieved from: https://oda.hio.no/jspui/bitstream/10642/2318/1/1152690.pdf