SUBJECT: PBL is about Pedagogy and that includes learning through projects, processes, problems, practices, and place!

November 2, 2022 at 3:21 PM


Inclusive “P”-BL

In the conversations around PBL on campus, you may have heard that our campus is operating on a very narrow definition of “PBL” that sounds like it doesn’t include you. But we want to reassure you that there is lots of room for the work you are already doing with your students in the campus vision for PBL, and there is lots of room for different approaches to PBL (at multiple levels of engagement!).

Here is what you need to know!

1. PBL includes all the “P”s, and all are welcome on campus.

The “P” in the campus definition of PBL has recently been broadened to include not just practice but also project, place, process, or problem. Each college, discipline, and faculty member may be thinking about PBL in a slightly different way, and that’s ok. As a campus, we are committed to student-centered learning, where students have the opportunity to “apply, analyze, evaluate, or create knowledge.” This points directly to active and sustained coursework, where students can apply what they are learning as they learn it, and hopefully build community and connection as they learn. But the exact flavor of the “P” is up to you and the needs of your students and programs.

2. PBL engages students in the practical application of course concepts, and our campus welcomes this PBL at many different levels and with many different audiences.

There are many different ways students can get the benefits of PBL. One well-known approach is to have students complete projects with community partners (in what we might think of as a capstone course or project). Another well-known approach is to have students complete projects in groups.  But these are only two ways, and they are absolutely not the only ways to do PBL in your classes. There are many ways to participate in PBL across all course levels! As a campus we need and want students to practice applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating knowledge in many different ways during their time with us.

If you ask your students to apply course concepts to practical (even if hypothetical) situations, you may already be doing PBL. If you ask your students to consider audiences (even hypothetical audiences) beyond yourself as instructor/grader, you may already be doing PBL. If you ask your students to apply course concepts to craft a policy proposal, curate an exhibit, design a syllabus, create an infographic, or persuade an audience, you may already be doing PBL. If you ask your students to build or make something, you may already be doing PBL.  If you ask your students to apply their library research to reflect on their lived experiences or the experiences of others, you may already be doing PBL. Even if the work is not quite fully PBL yet, you may only be a tweak or two away, or perhaps you may just need to shift how you frame and present your coursework to make that practical application more transparent to your students.

3. Our campus PBL events are for everyone, whether you want to work with community partners, whether you want to do a bit of PBL-inspired work in your classroom, or whether you just want to figure out if what you’re already doing counts as PBL.

We want to help you see how the work you are already doing fits with PBL, tweak the work you are already doing to make it more PBL, and/or help you build new PBL experiences for your students if you would like to.

PBL-Palooza is only the beginning of what we hope will become a campus PBL learning community.  At PBL-Palooza, you’ll see how just a few of your colleagues incorporate applied learning into their classrooms, and you’ll hear about some of the resources available if you are curious about what it would look like if you did want to do PBL within the community.  After PBL-Palooza, we’ll have more opportunities to discuss, learn, work, and discover together what we want PBL to be on our campus.  We hope you will join us!

Upcoming Opportunities:

PBL-Palooza Presentations: Friday, November 4th on Zoom, highlighting some of the incredible PBL projects happening across campus, with presentations by faculty and the Office of Metropolitan Impact. Presenters (in presentation order): Katie LaCommare, Bruce Maxim, Elif Izberk-Bilgin, Patrick Beauchesne & Emily Luxon, Alireza Mohammadi, Zheng Song, Alan Wiggins, Natalie Sampson, and OMI; MC’d by Marie Waung. Register Here.

PBL-Palooza Fair: Monday, November 7th in person, will be a poster-fair style session where you can meet with offices (such as the Office of Academic Success, Experience+, Instructional Designers, and more!) to learn about how we can partner together to incorporate PBL across campus. There will be space to ask questions and enjoy snacks while you think about how to successfully create these opportunities in the classroom!  Register here.

Peer-to-Peer PBL Support Network:  If you are interested in receiving information about upcoming PBL discussions, workshops, or events, please sign up here.  As you sign up, let us know what you are most interested in doing, learning, discussing, etc., and we’ll try to take your needs and preferences into account!

Share your PBL: If you have a course or an assignment that you think fits with PBL (such as through the practical application of course concepts) please share it with your colleagues, here!  Emily Luxon & Patrick Beauchesne, with the help of the Hub, are creating a campus repository of PBL examples (shared by Dearborn faculty just for Dearborn faculty), so that we can get concrete and practical ideas about the many different ways we can incorporate PBL into our classes.


The Campus WPI PBL Collaborative Team
Emily Luxon (CASL)
Carla Vecchiola (the HUB)
Amanda Esquivel (CECS)
Anys Bacha (CECS)
Chris Burke (CEHHS)
Marcus Harris (COB)
Jen Proctor (CASL)
Katie LaCommare (CASL)
Lisa Martin (CEHHS)
Yi-Su Chen (COB)

Office of the Provost

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4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
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Phone: 313-593-5030