I worked with a middle school staff in Tucson this week (Go Unicorns!) that was grappling with the difference between activity-based learning and project-based learning. Through discussion we came closer to an operational definition of each, which would help them sort and improve their project ideas. They would like to be able to say, for example, "No, I think that's more of an activity, it's not really a project. A project would be/have..."
Would you throw in your two cents? Utterback MS (amazing place) and I thank you!

Tags: pbl

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Replies to This Discussion

Differences between projects and activities:
Projects are created by students, whereas activities are created by teachers. Students determine how a project is done. Teachers determine how activities are done. Projects have goals or guidelines allowing many ways for students to complete them. Activities have instructions and a more narrow range of student products.
Activities seem, to me, to be simply that....activities. I'd imagine that the word "activities" is used to suggest or prompt that the lessons must be actionable not sit and get. Certainly PBL is more activity driven. Project based learning seems to shoot for a bigger goal; solving a problem. I also think that PBL clearly put the student at the center of work...helping them to define it, create the direction for the learning and so on. Activities doesn't convey that same focus of the work.

But honestly.....who knows what is "right" and both can describe the same thing if the context and common useage implies the meaning they want.
I like your comment, "pbl seems to shoot for a bigger goal, solving a problem." I'd add, solving a problem, tackling a challenge, or conducting an investigation.
I think the terms can be used interchangeably too as long as you have established that context and common usage. When a series of activities in pbl don't add up to something greater (solving a problem, etc.) then it's time to pick the project apart and definitive language helps us do that. The Utterback faculty wants to arrive at common usage so they can help each other improve their projects. I use this slide sometimes to parse it out:

Thanks for parsing the difference between the two for me. Nice Slide.
Maybe a Venn diagram with activities being a sub-set of pbl, with teacher directed activities being lead-ins to teach pbl skills and concepts that will be needed, or that kids find they need to know. Sue
Sometimes words bog us down and a drawing is just the thing! Draw it! Draw it!
My kids learn Physics not by reading a text



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