Problem…or Project?
I recently mentioned the variety of X-based learning vocabulary that has invaded the education world. When I first saw PBL for this week’s blog I had to do a double take – I thought the P stood for ‘Project.’ So I needed to do a little research to understand the difference between Project and Problem -based learning.

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking). (source)


In a problem-based learning (PBL) model, students engage complex, challenging problems and collaboratively work toward their resolution. PBL is about students connecting disciplinary knowledge to real-world problems—the motivation to solve a problem becomes the motivation to learn. (source)

Twitter and Google searches also helped aid my understanding between the two models. John Larmer contends that problem-based learning is a subset of project based learning and provides a helpful table to differentiate between the two. In Geoff Krall‘s opinion the two biggest differences are time and order and he also provides a great pie chat of the differences and similarities.

With a clearer picture of what these two models actually are I definitely see advantages to them. Just as I do with several of the other X-based learning models (game-based learning, challenge-based learning…).

IB MYP design cycle?
One of the features of problem-based learning is the ‘steps that can be repeated and recycled.’ The inclusion of authentic problems and the prescribed steps remind me of the IB MYP design cycle (and design thinking).
MYP Technology Design Cycle


The core of why I like the MYP design cycle, and all the X-based learning/thinking, is that they are student centered and move the teacher from the sage to a guide. What is best for my students is the question I always want to be reflecting back on. Are these models (or a hybrid or them) best for my students? Probably!

As for technology’s role this these models – it becomes a tool for learning, not the base of all learning. You could actually go through the entire design cycle without once using technology. Would it help facilitate the cycle? Most likely. But is is absolutely necessary? Not always. Design and X-based learning models have the potential (if done right) to give true meaning to technology integration.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually teach the MYP design cycle nor have I received official training. I’d love to hear opinions from any of you that do teach it / are trained!