For many faculty (and students) anything that is not a test or a worksheet that is homework. As digital technologies have become more widely available, projects have included presentations and similar work. In the education literature, however, project-based learning has a very specific meaning.
Project-based learning typically begins with a question that is defined by the student; alternatively, project-based learning can be driven by a product the students wants to create or expertise the student wants to develop. Notice project-based learning is grounded in the student’s question or goals. Without student choice to initiate the project, the lesson is not project-based learning.
Because the students define what it to be learned, the students is also largely responsible for determining how the learning will occur. Clearly, there is a role for the teacher and for other experts to provide guidance, advice, and even direct instruction; this is intended to scaffold the student’s work rather than direct it.
Just as students decide what they will study and how they will study, they also decide how they will demonstrate their learning. Teachers are rarely the only person to give feedback and to make a formal assessment and evaluation of project-based learning activities. The products and performances are often valued by others and the work is shared publicly.
Project-based learning is a lesson is which students assume responsibility for their learning, and mush that is learned is outside of the traditional content area. As a result, it is reasonable to question the role of project-based learning in some courses.