Module 2



Project-based learning is an approach which uses methods such as inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning to develop students’ competences.

Inquiry-based learning starts with questioning, continues with exploration and investigation and ends with finding a solution, drawing a reasonable conclusion, making a substantive decision or applying new knowledge or skills. It is often used to explore deep questions such as; Are all humans born free? Is democracy the ideal way to organise society? Students are encouraged to question arguments, information, ideas, opinions and viewpoints, to go deeper and generate new questions, which will lead them to new knowledge. And which will make them think and seek answers in a more complex way.

Such questions are:

  • “What was the most important cause of our city’s growth?”
  • “How can we best convince teenagers to be healthy eaters?”
  • „How can we design an airplane wing that is light and will support 25 pounds without breaking?”

Important fact is that answers to these questions can’t be found on Google without “digging” deeply.

The problem-based learning method is more practical. Students are given a real life problem to investigate, which can be described as an authentic problem and have to come up with possible solutions. It may be widely applied to all kinds of real life problems. The solutions can then be discussed and tested to see which will work best in a given situation, for example. How to provide the best care for elderly people in their own homes, How to improve access to public buildings.



Implementing the PBL approach in teaching requires a teacher to bear in mind a few practicalities before you start. Here are a few pointers a teacher need to think about, which can be considered as a preliminary checklist:

  • What is your project idea?
  • What is the time frame proposed?
  • Is the project idea manageable?
  • Is it a project just between you and your class or will you collaborate with other teachers in your school or in other countries
  • If it involves partners from other countries, what is the language proposed?
  • What subjects could be integrated into this project?
  • What technical tools, if any, will you use?
  • How does your project fit with the school planning and calendar?

Once the teacher has fulfilled the basics they are ready to start but should bear in mind the following 7 steps :

  • Step 1. Involve your students from the very beginning. Start with a guided exploration of some topics you have in mind as a whole class; but also be prepared to change if better ideas are emerging from the class. It is important to establish certain ground rules regarding behavior with them in advance.
  • Step 2. Having defined the topic, in discussion with the class break it down into different tasks. Discuss which technologies to use and how they will be integrated
  • Step 3. Plan well, set goals, define outcomes. Above all be concrete, students need goals to work towards and responsibility of tasks in order to achieve them
  • Step 4. Proceed to put pupils into small groups with responsibilities for a particular task. Encourage pupils to ask personally relevant and socially significant questions regarding the topics chosen. Work to the strengths of each pupil.
  • Step 5. Create a tangible artifact that addresses the issue, answers questions, and makes learning visible and accountable.
  • Step 6. Arrive at a conclusion…take a stand…take action.
  • Step 7. Document, justify, and share conclusion with larger audience. (parents, school etc)






Collaborative problem solving is a complex skill requiring both social and cognitive competencies:


In other words collaborative problem solving is a set of skills that we need to rely on when the capacities or resources of just one person are not sufficient to solve the problem. We need to learn how to combine different resources and skills when faced with complex problems.

from: Patrick Griffin & Esther Care


The Nature of collaborative problem solving:

The primary distinction between problem-solving by an individual and collaborative problem-solving is its social nature – the need for communication, exchange of ideas, shared identification of the problem and its elements, and negotiated agreement on connections between problem elements and relationships between actions and their effects. Collaborative problem-solving makes each of these steps observable, as they must be shared with a partner or other members of a group if a solution is to be successfully identified. These steps can be described as follows:

  1. A problem state must be jointly recognised, and collaborators must identify and agree on which elements of the problem each can control or monitor.
  2. A representation of the problem must be shared.
  3. Collaborators need to agree on a plan of action, including management of resources.
  4. Plans must be executed, which may require a coordinated effort by collaborators acting together or in sequence.
  5. Progress towards a solution must be monitored, different options evaluated, plans reformulated if necessary, and collaborators must decide on how to proceed in the face of positive or negative feedback.

Collaborative problem solving requires that the people combine their resources and their strategies in order to reach a common goal.

Collaborative problem solving is therefore defined as a joint activity where two or more people work together to contribute knowledge, skills, materials and procedures and move through a series of cognitive states that involve collection and analysis of information and the formulation of hypotheses that they jointly set out to test.


In designing a collaborative problem based task or project there are several steps:

  1. Define the problem or collaborative project.
  2. Identify project elements and components in detail;
  3. for each component identify the resources that are essential. These can be;
    1. knowledge
    2. materials
    3. strategies
    4. experience
    5. equipment;
  4. Allocate to each participant non-overlapping, unique sets of resources necessary to be contributed to the project completion or problem resolution. Divide the resources amongst the participants with no shared or common resources.
  5. Clearly state the goals of the task or problem solution and observed to students procedure in the task.
  6. Explain to the participants that they must identify the problem, sort out a strategy to resolve the problem or complete the task
  7. The students also need to develop a means of keeping records of their decisions and discussions. For face-to-face attempts at collaborative problem-solving or collaborative project work keeping records is an essential aspect of the assessment process.

Example of collaborative e-twinning project:

„Let Your Passions Shine”




Module 2 Learning Activity:

Design your own project to develop your students’ competences



DESCRIPTION: This learning activity requires you to design your own project to develop learners’ competences, using the principles and steps you have learned about in the video talks in Module 1 and 2.

OBJECTIVE: To design a project which you can implement with your students in or outside of the classroom, aimed at developing a range of competences. The project can be as limited and focused or as broad and ambitious as you like, depending on your context, experience, resources and constraints. The project can be focused on a topic within the subject you teach, or alternatively can include a range of subject areas; it can be with one or more classes or even schools, involving the local community or international partners. The important point is to bear in mind the key principles discussed in the video talks, as well as use the top tips suggested to ensure your project is designed to effectively develop a range of higher order skills, including collaborative problem solving, for example.

DEADLINE: Please complete this template by Sunday, 2 October, 23:59 CEST. It is preferable for you to complete this learning activity by this date, as it will help you benefit more from Module 3 of this course. However, should you not have time, or join the course at a later stage, you can submit your learning activity until Sunday 9 October 23:59 CEST.

SUBMISSION: To complete this learning activity you need to fill in this template and submit it, by clicking on the ‘hand-in task’ button in the ‘Learning Activity’ area.


  1. Think of a project idea: Think of a project you would like your students to work on to develop their competences. Think back to your self-assessment of the 10 key principles for teaching and assessing key competences you did in the Module 1 Learning Activity. You might like to focus your project idea around one or more of the principles you identified as currently being weakly or not at all present in your teaching. This is your opportunity to work on that gap in your current practice, allowing you to develop your own competences, as well as those of your students!
  2. Fill in the PBL Plan on pages 3-4: Once you have your project idea, fill in the Project Based Learning (PBL) Plan below which requires you to think of all the key dimensions involved in designing a competence-based project. Remember to provide any relevant links in your plan – this might be a link to an online space where you are planning your project, or it might a specific link to an organization you would like to partner with, or an example of an existing project you would like to adapt to your own context. Remember, to help you design your project and fill in the PBL Plan, you can:


Refer back to the following advice given in the course so far:

  1. a) The key principles for teaching and assessing key competences discussed by Caroline and Janet in videos 1.3.2 and 1.3.3.
  2. b) The preliminary checklist and 7 basic steps for designing a PBL activity, given by Anne in video 2.3.1
  3. c) The 4 top tips and 5 effective strategies given by Sandra, our Irish Mathematics teacher in video 2.3.3
  4. d) The suggested steps given by Patrick in video 2.3.2 on how to design a collaborative problem based project, as well as his related paper available below the video.
  5. e) Advice given in KeyCoNet’s Teacher Guide: Using Project-Based Learning to Develop Students’ Key Competences, as well as the other PBL resources provided in the Module 2 Library.


Access examples of PBL activities for inspiration:

eTwinning Project – Rainbow Village:




eTwinning Project – Let Your Passions Shine:




eTwinning Project – Pek, The Traveler Flea:




eTwinning Project – Health 4 Life:










DRIVING QUESTION/PROBLEM (Needs to be authentic, enable in-depth enquiry i.e. ‘non-Googleable’ and motivate students’ interest)


Looking for equality in Tricity


Learning about modern history of their region and thinking about democracy – preparing a PowerPoint presentation or a film
PROJECT ELEMENTS (Break down the problem into its various parts)


  1. Street game – questions and puzzles which are solved by groups of students lead them to some important places
  2. Discussion – what do they know?
  3. Giving ideas how to learn more: – interviews (even with parents); museums and open-air exhibition; internet
  4. Students create their works in groups during the lessons and outside school
  5. They ask questions before giving final works
  6. They present their final works
  7. They discuss about their works and self-assess their works after seeing the works of their peers
RESOURCES (What resources will you use and how will they be distributed between students? Will you use any technology?)


  1. I will prepare a street game
  2. I will show them open-air exhibition
  3. I will prepare some materials about the most important moments
TOPIC/SUBJECT/S (Will your project be focused on one specific subject or be transdisciplinary/cross-curricular?)


I teach English so they will use English language to present their knowledge of history. They will interview people. They will think about ethics and human rights
COMPETENCES/SKILLS (Will you develop a mixture of subject-based competences and transversal skills?)


They will look for the information, visit museum, interview, gather information and take photo, make a film or PP presentation


NUMBER OF STUDENTS AND TEACHERS INVOLVED (Will the project only involve the students in your class or also another class, or even more schools locally or further afield?)


Class ( 27 people)


WORKING LANGUAGE? (If it’s an international project will you use English or one or more other languages as the working languages for the project?)


English and Polish
PARTNERS? (Which partners will you work with, in and outside of school?)



TANGIBLE ARTIFACT (What will the students produce that addresses the issue, and makes learning visible and accountable?)


Film or PP presentation
PUBLIC AUDIENCE (Build in one or more opportunities for students to present their work to a wider audience, within or outside of school)


They will present their works to other classes and it will be uploaded to school internet magazine
COLLABORATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING (You can include a collaborative problem-solving component to your project, even if it is not the main focus. Remember to follow the steps presented in video 2.3.2 and to ensure you ask students to keep a record of their discussions and decisions when they are carrying out the collaborative problem-solving task)


Maybe I could ask them to think what “lesson” have the society learnt and if they can find any results of its history in nowadays life ( but maybe it is too difficult for 14/15 year-old students…
STUDENT CHOICES (Which choices are you giving to students in terms of how they work, how they use their time, the products to be made etc.?)


Which museum to go, how they use their time – they work during the lessons, during the street game but also on their own- individually and as a group. What resources they will use, and whom they will interview. They decide which city to choose Gdynia or Gdansk, and what photos take. They also can decide whether they want to make a film or PP presentation.
FEEDBACK & REVISION (Build in opportunities for students to receive feedback during the process from you, other colleagues/project partners or their peers. Ensure they have the time to incorporate this feedback to revise their way of working and final products before the end of the project)


They will have to show me 2 times the results of their work so I will be able to give them some feedback. I think they can say about their visit in the museums and interviews – to make other students think about that.


  1. List your questions and concerns: Indicate in the box below which of the PBL dimensions/project elements mentioned in the above PBL Plan you have any questions about, are not sure how to implement, or can already anticipate problems for. If you can think of possible solutions, mention these also. This has 2 purposes: a) it gives you the opportunity to reflect on which issues you need to further explore and get help on before being able to successfully implement your project with your students; and b) it gives you the opportunity to benefit from the advice of a fellow course participant who will read your questions and problems in the peer review activity and will try and answer on the basis of their professional experience and understanding of the course content covered so far.
I am not sure how to make it collaborative, also I am wondering if in this project they are really creative – maybe they should create something more like their own list of principles for ideal country.

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