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New Tech Network: Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is at the heart of New Tech Network’s (NTN) instructional approach. In PBL, students start each new unit of study with a complex and authentic task to complete. Learning often occurs in integrated subject-area courses, like English and Social Studies, where students collaborate with their peers to investigate a real-world problem. This demands mastery of subject matter content, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, oral and written communication skills, and individual agency (work ethic). The student inquiry process is supported along the way by NTN practices like Entry Events, the Need-to-Know (NTK) process, engaging with content area experts, skill building workshops, and authentic assessment.  Projects culminate with the development and presentation of a real-world product, which is evaluated by community experts, educators, and peers.

Project-Based Learning at Winton Woods City Schools

Project-Based Learning in Grades 5 and 6

project-based learning per grades



5 step pbl process




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They recognize students inherent drive to learn, their capability to do important work, and their need to be taken seriously by putting them at the center of the learning process.
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They engage students in the central concepts and principles of a discipline. The project work is central rather than peripheral to the curriculum.
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They highlight provocative issues or questions that lead students to in-depth exploration of authentic and important topics.
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They require the use of essential tools and skills, including technology, for learning, self-management, and project management.
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They specify products that solve problems, explain dilemmas, or present information generated through investigation, research, or reasoning.
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They include multiple products that permit frequent feedback and consistent opportunities for students to learn from experience.
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They use performance-based assessments that communicate high expectations, present rigorous challenges, and require a range of skills and knowledge.
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They encourage collaboration in some form, either through small groups, student-led presentations, or whole-class evaluations of project results.


Problem-Based Learning
New Tech Network schools also use Problem-based learning. PrBL is a form of inquiry-based instruction used primarily in Mathematics that places the students in several smaller Problem scenarios rather than a single, large Project scenario. Supported by NCTM and the NSF, much of what makes PBL so successful is present in a PrBL environment, including Entry Events, the Need-to-Know (NTK) process, and student-centered scaffolding.

By Judy Brown∗ , Jennifer Helton, M. Todd Edwards, and Dr. Tamra Ragland, Winton Woods City Schools