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A Program of the Virginia Department of Education

Project-Based Approaches

Course Description

In this facilitator-led course, teachers explore characteristics and benefits of project-based approaches (PBA) using specific classroom scenarios. Participants will receive instructions prior to the beginning of each session providing support and feedback. Throughout the course, teachers consider their own teaching practices and ways that technology supports PBA. Planning and project design modules guide teachers through organizing the curriculum, the classroom, technology, and students for successful technology-supported projects. The assessment module demonstrates strategies for assessing students’ life readiness skills throughout an open-ended project. The course offers opportunities to apply PBA concepts with action-planning exercises.

Course Goals

  • Understand the differences between a project-based approach and conventional teaching.
  • Review the research-based benefits of project-based learning.
  • Explore what successful projects have in common.
  • Review the four major steps of project design and create project ideas from standards and community needs.
  • Identify life readiness skills and targeted learning objectives that support student learning.
  • Understand the purposes and components of Curriculum-Framing Questions.
  • Understand the role of ongoing assessment in projects.
  • Identify the components of successful student-centered activities for projects.
  • Learn about different purposes, methods, and instruments for assessment during projects.
  • Assess life readiness skills using observation checklists and rubrics.
  • Plan how multiple types of assessments will occur throughout a project.
  • Explore ideas for assigning project grades.
  • Organize milestones and key activities using a project timeline.
  • Review management strategies.
  • Plan the details of a project using an implementation plan.
  • Learn ways to use questioning to advance student learning.
  • Learn how to enhance students’ collaboration and self-direction skills.
  • Select information literacy skills to emphasize during a project.
  • Explore ways to teach students reflection skills.

Course Length

This facilitated course is divided into six modules: an orientation module and five content-based modules. The time for completing each module is estimated to be 4–6 hours, and the
total amount of time required for the entire course is estimated to be 30 hours.

Course Requirements

Successful completion of the course will be based on the following requirements:

  • Participants must complete the course activities and readings in each module.
  • Participants must post at least three times in each module discussion forum (their post and a reply to two other posts).
  • Participants must complete the course’s final action plan project and submit a summary on the discussion board.

Discussion Participation

Participants are required to post a minimum of three substantive posts in each discussion forum. Participants will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their discussion board participation. Postings will be reviewed based on their relevance, demonstrated understanding of course concepts, examples cited, overall quality, degree to which they extend the discussion, and tone.

Final Action Plan Project

As a final project, participants will complete an action plan for using PBA in their own classrooms. Participants are expected to work independently on the final action plan project throughout the course. Each participant is expected to submit a summary of their PBA plan on the discussion board at the end of Module 5.

Course Modules

Module 1: Projects Overview

In this module, participants explore the principles of project-based learning. They learn about the differences between a project-based approach and conventional teaching, and review the research-based benefits of project-based learning. As they view examples of different projects and hear from teachers doing projects, they come to understand the characteristics that projects have in common.

Module 2: Project Design

In this module, participants begin thinking about designing their own projects. They are introduced to the four major steps of project design and apply these steps to consider their own learning goals, Curriculum-Framing Questions, assessment, and student activities. Participants follow one teacher’s process as he begins to plan his project.

Module 3: Assessment

Assessment is integral to a project-based approach. In this module, participants learn how to integrate assessment throughout a project. They see examples of assessment instruments and develop or adapt them for their own use. They learn how to assess life readiness skills—such as collaboration, self-direction, and reflection—using teacher, peer, and self-assessment methods. They also identify the challenges and possible solutions for assigning grades during projects.

Module 4: Project Planning

Planning the day-to-day work of a project is just as important as planning the big picture. In this module, participants learn how to plan project details to keep a project organized, using project timelines and implementation plans. They consider management strategies to support their students’ self-direction and success and ensure their projects run smoothly. Teachers also discuss ways to keep students on task during projects and strategies for project time management.

Module 5: Guided Learning

In this module, participants focus on improving instruction throughout projects. They explore questioning strategies to improve student learning and ways to develop students’ collaboration, self-direction, information literacy, and reflection skills. Sample lessons are demonstrated as models for participants as they create mini-lessons for their own projects. Participants also observe student dialogues as students develop life readiness skills through discussions and practice.

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