5 Essential Steps for Project-Based Learning

The 5 Essential Steps of the Inquiry Cycle for Project-Based Learning

Unlike traditional learning based on rote memorization, the Inquiry Cycle of project-based learning begins with a question or query that forms the basis of a learning investigation. More often than not, educators form student groups to work collaboratively on a project. Successful outcomes are often a result of the level of research and analytical skills developed by the students throughout the course of the project.

As outlined by Andrew Miller in his ASCD webinar handout, “Project-Based Learning and the Common Core State Standards“, there are five essential steps in this process:

ASK:  We begin with genuine curiosity by asking a meaningful question that can serve as the basis of a complex investigation.
INVESTIGATE:  We gather information through research, study, observation, interviewing, conducting an experiment or other methods.
CREATE:  As the information accumulates, we begin to make connections. Based on those connections, we create new learning by developing theories or ideas that are new to us – outside our previous experience.
DISCUSS:  This is the point at which we share our thoughts and ideas with others. Sharing knowledge builds our community of learners.
REFLECT: We review the question, our research path, and the conclusions of our inquiry. This reflection process may lead to new observations and decisions.

Often, the outcome of this process is a presentation where students share their process and results of their inquiry. This model of inquiry can be applied to any topic or discipline. In fact, it is a precursor to what students will find in the real world of college and career. Helping students master this process supports development of their 21st century skills of collaboration, creativity, and communication.

So that students have the widest experience in using this process, it is recommended that they engage in as many different research and presentation modalities as possible. Previous posts have outlined connections to the Common Core as well as how to choose devices that support blended learning. These and other posts on this blog are designed to give teachers specific ideas and strategies that support the transition to the Common Core that are practical and increase student engagement. Be sure to check through the archives to find other helpful posts.

Read more about blogs relating to Common Core here and learn more about Teaching with Tablets, also published by ASCD.


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