PBL Advantages & Features

Holistic & Integrated Learning; Project Based Learning

  • Real life problems are multidisciplinary and defy strict compartmentalization of subject boundaries.
  • PBL curriculum is project based that interweaves multiple intelligences in the form meaningful activities that makes sense and have a purpose that motivates the students to learn.
  • The curriculum focuses on experiences that enables the students to assign meaning to concepts.
  • Examples:
    1. Drawing a family tree that goes up to grand parents. and annotating the nodes with names and dates of birth and illustrating them them with pictures requires several skills such as researching and interviewing skills, understanding a pictorial representation of relationships with uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings. The project develops other skills such as tree structure (maths), hierarchy (organization and management), relationships (sociology), dates and lineage (history), reading, writing (language), drawing lines and fitting info on chart (aesthetics and arts) etc.
    2. Baking bread is an experience that requires math’s (ratios and estimation of quantities from recipe), physics (timings, conduction, heat), biology (yeast, fermentation, bacteria), chemistry (odor, taste), English (reading recipe, planning), time management etc.
    3. Buying groceries requires mathematics (estimation, addition, division etc), physics (weights, measures, etc), chemistry (physical properties, organic/inorganic ingredients), biology (stale, germs etc), sociology (courtesy, queuing, negotiation), English and Urdu (reading labels, talking and communicating) and many other subjects

Group Learning

  • PBL does not force the learners to only sit with the learners exactly the same age and same competency. Instead of age restricted classes, learners work in groups of their liking.
  • Learners are free to form a group where they feel comfortable and are enthusiastic to take on challenging projects.
  • Learning is quicker and more fun when kids are in groups of mixed ages and competences. Power of this group learning is demonstrated in science exhibitions, debate competitions and sports such as cricket or football, intellectual games such as chess where learners of different ages and competences get together and learn together.
  • Real life situations do not consist of artificial classes where everyone is of exactly the same age and competency. Real life situations always combine people of different ages and competences to work for some common objective.
  • Group learning enhances inter-personal skills such as empathy, sharing, communication, leadership, initiative, competitive and sports-man spirit. To perform better in group situations, one has to develop intra-personal skills such as positive attitude, emotional stability, self-confidence, perseverance and feeling of self worth.
  • For administrative convenience, learners may be divided into categories such as playgroup or pre-primary, beginners, middlers, juniors, seniors (O’Level) and A’Level.

Intellectual Independence

  • Research indicates that external bureaucratic intrusion in a class room that stipulates what to study and when, stifles the initiative and kills the curiosity of the learner.
  • PBL approach starts with the learners exploring and researching the type of learning activities that they are going to undertake.
  • Activities are divided into categories and levels of difficulty. Facilitators in each learning area assist the groups in selecting the activities from internet or books containing information about the activities.

Bureaucratic Invasion of Class Rooms

How can a syllabus designer sitting thousands of miles away from the class understand the peculiar circumstances and nature of a group of kids and design a stimulating lesson plan for the kids. Today’s topic must address today’s concerns and circumstances as reflected in today’s news and media. Facilitators and kids get together to finalize the activities of the day or the week that are relevant to happenings around them such as earthquakes (science), political changes (history), rains (science), droughts (ecology) etc. Kids select from an assortment of activities belonging to areas of multiple intelligences so that a broad and well rounded coverage of all the intelligences is obtained.

Frank Smith’s “Bureaucrative Invasion of Classroom”

Emotional Independence

  • PBL develops learners who want to excel and are intrinsically motivated to learn. We don’t want learners who are emotionally dependent on grades and are looking for rewards or work because they are afraid of punishment.
  • Research indicates that kids learn at their own pace. It is unreasonable to expect that each kid would learn at the same rate the same subject and would rise to the same level of competency on exactly the same day.
  • Kids learn in spurts of vigorous activity when they are interested and may jump across several grade levels in a few months in a subject.
  • PBL believes in authentic or formative assessment. Teachers individually assess students on their work and motivation and record their assessment weekly. Students also do peer assessment and self assessment. Performance rubrics are used these assessments.
  • Assessment is portfolio based where the learning is indicated by the projects that the students have undertaken.
  • PBL consider that a job well done is a reward in itself and gives immense self satisfaction.

A Job Well Done

A kid taking his first steps is considered to be the most beautiful sight on earth. Why? Because the kid tries again and again for months, fails and tries again, falls down repeatedly, cries and yet tries again; Eventually when he takes his first step on his own, his face is beaming, radiant with joy and happiness. He has achieved despite setbacks, but he persevered. His face is beautiful because it represents triumph over heavy odds. The joy is the joy of conquering his fears, and overcoming obstacles. This is a reward in itself. He has not done it because he wanted praise or was afraid of some punishment. He saw what others were doing, and he wanted to do the same, naturally without being coerced.

Syed Irfan Hyder


  • PBL wants to develop learners who are committed to completing the task at hand. Depending upon the complexity of the projects, students are expected to complete activities in four of the multiple intelligence areas. Reading and writing exercise are an integral part of the design of projects and day routine.
  • Arbitrary division of time in to 45 minute periods kills this commitment and breeds indifference. We let the student continue in the project for as long as is necessary.
  • Commitment and perseverance is what every one expects in the real life. No one wants that their tasks are left unfinished or incomplete. But, by abruptly terminating what kids are doing and only when they have begun to enjoy, at the sound of bell ringing abruptly, we often give the message that completing the task is not important. We want our learners to have the concentration and the perseverance not to let go till the task is done.

Self Esteem and Self-Confidence and Trust in their abilities

  • We believe that every learner has the potential of greatness.
  • There is special attention to introduce constructive role models in every area.
  • Labeling the child on the basis of arbitrary reports and scales kills this confidence.
  • Each child has an internal motivation to come up to the expectations. We kill that by labeling and associating dissatisfaction with their grades.
  • We believe in treating the child as we want them to be, not as they are.

How self confidence is easily shattered by unwanted testing

What is the difference between a kid who started to read at 5 years, and a kid who started to read at 9, when they are fifteen? Not much. However, the kid who is a late starter, would have been labeled as weak, deficient, or may be even with a learning inadequacy for the four years when he was behind the others in the class. He would have been continuously reminded about his inadequacy and his parents would have been reminded again and again that their kid has some fundamental weakness. However much the parents think that their kid has other compensating competences, their voices were never heard and pushed aside. Suddenly when this kid out performs the early starter late in life, how much these taunts and reprimands appear unjust and unfair!! How many successful people we meet every day who were weak in school grades but are performing better than the A graders!

Syed Irfan Hyder

Introspection and Reflection

  • A child requires time for introspection and reflection and we give ample unsupervised spaces for the child to grow the faculties at his or her pace.
  • PBL approach wants the kids to think of learning as a fun that happens at all times and places and does not require huge amount of home-work and threat of punishment the next day for not doing it.
  • Ability of the children to think on their own and be able to generate for themselves activities that would amuse them and keep them busy.

Independent Thinking, Introspection and Reflection

Often when students entering the business school or engineering are asked how many books (other than their school texts) have they read, how many poets do they enjoy reciting, we find an overwhelming majority (more than 80%) saying none at all. On being asked why, the answer is they never had time. It was school, then it was home work, then it was tutor to tutoring by parents, followed by TV. This happens day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Eventually we have students in our universities who have no experience of enjoying literature and the capability of abstract thought. This is indicative of an empty inner life. Absence of introspection, reflection, contemplation, self analysis and appreciation of fine points of life. PBL approach develops thinkers and doers who want to change for the better the environment around them. Not just be passive puppets being manipulated by the commercial interests but active agents for the forces of good and improvement of society around them.

Syed Irfan Hyder