Project, Problem, and Challenge-Based Learning: when to use each one with Genially

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Ruth Martín

Tiempo de lectura

5 minutes


May 9, 2023


Would you be able to tell me the difference between the colors plum, violet, and indigo? If you’re like me, it’s likely that before answering you’ll have to search the internet for images of each to appreciate their differences.

Something similar sometimes happens with active learning methodologies. When we talk about methodologies that share objectives and several elements of their implementation, it can be tricky to tell them apart. And if they’ve also got very similar acronyms, it’s trickier still!

This is the case with Project-Based Learning (PBL), Problem-Based Learning (ProblemBL), and Challenge-Based Learning (CBL). All these methodologies share something we love: they place the student at the center of learning and make them the protagonist. But each has its own nuances.

We can’t guarantee that by the end of this post you will have mastered the color palettes and know how to distinguish between indigo and violet. But you’ll feel much more comfortable with PBL, ProblemBL, and CBL. Ah! And you’ll also discover the best templates and tips for bringing these active methodologies to your classroom with Genially. Let’s go!

Project, Problem, and Challenge-Based Learning: what have they got in common?

Before continuing with the advantages of these three active methodologies, we want to emphasize one thing: you don’t have to decide on just one. Throughout the school year, and depending on the subject being taught, the resources at your disposal, or the skills you want to develop, you can choose one or the other. Variety is the spice of life!

And, as they have several elements in common, students will find it much easier to work with them as the year progresses and adapt to the one they are working with at any given time. You’ll be amazed at what your class can do with the right tools and materials. And this is where Genially comes in 😉

These things are all true of Problem, Project, and Challenge-Based Learning:

  1. Achieving certain competencies is as important as acquiring knowledge. Until recently, the focus was on content and demonstrating information retention. Now, through these active methodologies, the objective is also to develop creativity, teamwork, or critical thinking. Because theoretical concepts can be forgotten, but skills and attitudes endure over time. 
  2. The student is always at the center of learning. Each student gets involved, contributes their vision, and connects what they learn with their real life outside the classroom. They learn practical knowledge and skills that will serve them in the future, both personally and academically. 
  3. The teacher acts as a facilitator or guide, leaving much more autonomy to the students. Farewell to master classes where the teacher was the protagonist. Now it’s different: each teacher provides the students with everything they need, but does not intervene if it is not necessary. 
  4. Higher-order skills are worked on through the analysis, creation, and evaluation of solutions to the challenge. 
  5. These methodologies prepare students for the world of work. It’s not 100% clear what the professions of the future will be, but we know that we should work on skills that allow students to successfully face any professional challenge, such as problem solving, communication, and interpersonal skills. 
  6. They allow you to work on several subjects or topics at the same time. In this way, we make teaching more flexible, work on the learning objectives in a more fluid way, and get more out of the teaching hours
  7. They increase student motivation and participation: sharing projects, overcoming problems, creating their own products, and contributing in their own way has a positive impact on their self-esteem. 

Now we’ve seen why it is a good idea to use active methodologies such as PBL, ProblemBL, and CBL in our classes., but when should we use each one? Like everything else, it will depend on the context and what we want to achieve with the students. Read on, it’s getting interesting…

PBL, ProblemBL, and CBL: How to use them in class

To use any of these methodologies in our classes, the next step would be to know when to use each one. Let’s have a look at what each one offers in terms of its focus, learning process, and final product.

Need ideas for your PBL, ProblemBL, or CBL classes? Next we’ll suggest some activities and the best Genially templates for awesome learning experiences.

Project-Based Learning

Suggest something that’ll get your students excited, such as improving their schoolyard and turning it into a park. To do this, they should research other parks in their province, measure their yard to find out what elements and plants they could add, and begin researching how and where to acquire them.

The end product could be a project with their proposal, in the form of a digital product. The next step is even more exciting: they can present it to the school and other community agencies, such as the city council. 

To implement this and other ideas in your PBL classes, we bring you not one, but two ready-made templates that will make your work much easier.

The first one is a canvas for planning your PBL projects:

The second is an interactive presentation that each group can personalize however they like:

Problem-Based Learning

Here is an example of ProblemBL that you can easily apply, as it’s a situation that, although fictitious, could occur in any school

Get your class together and come up with the following: a school recently suffered a fire and there were problems during the evacuation. Pushing and shoving, people running without knowing where to go, blocked doors, etc. Although no one was seriously injured, some needed medical attention.

What went wrong, how could it have been avoided, and what can we do to prevent this from happening in our school? From these questions, students can research their school’s evacuation plan, learn the safety signs, and confirm where each emergency exit is located. With the help of the teachers, they can contact the fire department and invite them to give a talk at school. 

Now not only will they know what to do in case of a fire, they’ll also have developed their research, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills. Not bad eh?

To help them in the process, there’s nothing like simple, interactive, visual resources. They can always go back to them whenever they need to consult information. Use an infographic like this:

Challenge-Based learning

We can bring CBL into our classroom with a topic that’s super relevant today: energy conservation. Why should we save energy? How would it impact our lives?

From there, an interesting and necessary challenge arises: to create an energy-saving plan for the school and accompany it with a campaign to promote it in the community. The goal: that more schools in the surrounding area become aware and create their own energy-saving plans.

Sounds good, right? So, let’s go for it! The first thing to do is guide students in the resolution of the problem question, using information or clues that’ll help them think. What about using an escape game like this one?

Then, to ensure the awareness campaign is successful and captures attention, we can create videos, presentations, or publish a blog with interactive content. 

As you can see, each one of the three active methodologies fulfills different objectives. That’s why there’s no need to choose only one; combine them and choose the one that suits you best depending on the materials or context. You’ll find tons of templates in Genially that you can personalize to give your classes that Wow effect.

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Ruth Martín
If you don’t get it wrong from time to time, it means you’re not learning enough

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