Articles on Professional Development

Learning Through Projects Teaches Students Important Project Management Skills


Originally published March 2006, Project Management Institute

By Dr. Yvonne Marie Andrés, President & Co-Founder, Global SchoolNet Foundation

Today’s anytime-anyplace work environment demands sophisticated communication skills, a flair for teamwork, respect for diversity, a talent for ad hoc decision-making and good project-management skills. Whether it is an entrepreneur launching a new product, an architect unveiling a new building, or a photo journalist introducing a new exhibit, people in business and industry around the globe are achieving remarkable accomplishments one project at a time. 

According to the report Learning for the 21st Century, “today’s education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn.” To address this need, a growing number of innovative education systems around the United States and worldwide are engaging their students in project-based learning. Project-based learning, often called PBL, is an instructional methodology in which students learn important skills by doing actual projects. Students apply core academic skills and creativity to solve authentic problems in real world situations. Students use a wide range of tools and the culminating projects are tangible and observable “artifacts” - that serve as evidence of what the students have learned. Student-produced videos, artwork, reports, photography, music, model construction, live performances, action plans, digital stories and websites are all examples of PBL artifacts.

Project-based learning is based on the “constructivist” learning theory, which finds that learning is deeper and more meaningful when students are involved in constructing their own knowledge. Students are given the opportunity to select a topic that interests them within the required content framework and then they are responsible for creating their project plan. Rather than a lecturer, typically, the teacher’s role is that of an academic advisor, mentor, facilitator, “task master” and evaluator.

Learning Projects for Every Age and Subject Area

Project-based learning opportunities are diverse, challenging and innovative -- ranging from understanding terrorism, the mathematics of music, exploring innovative waste management solutions, to creative story telling, online safety and studying global warming. There are learning projects for every age and to support every subject area. There are numerous implementation models for project-based learning. Students can work either offline or online. They can work alone on individual projects -- or they can work collaboratively as part of a project team. And, with the availability of the Internet and technology tools, their project partners can be across the table or around the globe. Students can interact with one another in meaningful educational, cultural, and scientific projects that provide deep learning experiences. According to study conducted by the Center for Research in Educational Policy (1999), PBL students improved test scores in all subject areas over a two-year period, out performing control schools by 26%. Compared with learning solely from textbooks, this approach has many benefits for students because it involves critical thinking, knowledge application, time management, organizational skills and increased student responsibility for their own learning.

Project opportunities abound, for example:

·         California teacher, Jennifer Wagner, describes herself as a “cheerleader for teachers to use online projects to expand their curriculum.” Wagner is probably most famous for helping her primary students improve their math and science skills by using Oreo cookies as manipulatives. They count, stack, graph, and share their cookie results with other kids around the world via the Web.

·         Marsha Goren teaches 6th grade at Ein Ganim School in Petach Tikva, Israel. Goren launched the Global Dreamers project to “inspire children to take a deeper look at the world and to help children to be more tolerant individuals in a multicultural society.” Goren says, “Seeking to motivate students has brought me into the world of online projects and I have become a global educator. It is a great feeling knowing that thousands of children and hundreds of educators are implementing our projects and our classroom has no borders.”

·         Rene de Vries teaches in Haarlam, Netherlands and engages his primary students in future-thinking authentic research about wildlife preservation, historical communities, and service-learning. His unique projects include Animal Diaries and CityQuest. A year ago he launched the Ukunda schools project to raise awareness about life in the small Kenyan village of Ukunda, and to provide help for Ukunda schools.

·         Global SchoolNet's International Schools CyberFair annual competition-exhibition challenges students to produce projects that showcase aspects of their local community. One recent project told about the unique history of Bucharest through its monasteries, gardens and traditional restaurants, while New Jersey students explored their history through the traditions of the US flag. San Diego youth collaborated with their global partners in Ghana, as they addressed local environmental concerns by creating organic gardens and monitoring water quality. Taiwanese projects ranged from the amazing accomplishments of indigenous mountain dwellers, to the building of the colossal Taipei 101 skyscraper, to the endearing story of the sweet potato.

·         The U. S. Department of State sponsors an annual Doors to Diplomacy project challenge - to encourage middle school and high school students around the world to produce online projects that teach others about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. Students work in small teams with teacher-coaches and compete for scholarships and cash awards.

·         ThinkQuest, sponsored by the Oracle Foundation, is an international competition in which students practice their skills in research, writing, technology, and teamwork and create web-based projects that can be used as educational resources by students worldwide.

The Challenge of Project Management

Despite considerable potential, project-based learning is not without its challenges. Project management, whether it is on the job or in the classroom, requires structure, skills and process. Lacking adequate support, this innovative educational approach will not be widely adopted by students or teachers.  Educators need help in choosing appropriate project-based learning content and introducing, managing and assessing educational projects that support their required curriculum standards. Students need help in planning and organizing their projects. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that are wonderful resources for project-based learning. These organizations have joined together to form the Project Learning Partnership.

Resources to Get Started



Dr. Yvonne Marie Andres is President of the (not-for-profit) Global SchoolNet Foundation. An educator for two decades, Andres has taught pre-school through university and is dedicated to demonstrating and documenting the power of global collaborative learning. She is co-founder of Global SchoolNet, producer of the Global Schoolhouse website, Doors to Diplomacy, the International Schools CyberFair program, and has provided leadership at conferences and workshops throughout the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, South America and Africa. Dr. Andres was named one of the 25 most influential people, worldwide in education technology.


Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN) is the original online resource for global project-based learning, problem-based learning, and online collaborative learning. Global SchoolNet partners with schools, communities and businesses in 194 countries to provide collaborative educational, scientific and cultural learning activities -- that prepare youth for the workforce and help them to become literate and responsible global citizens. GSN, a not-for-profit, has 90,000 members and has been linking classrooms around the world since 1984.