Susan Riley | April 2016

Are You Using Projects or Project-Based Learning?

As we head into spring, there’s a bit of “lightness” ahead. We’re more willing to try some new things and launch ourselves toward the final quarter of the school year. One way people do this is through project-based learning. When our team at EdCloset advocates for Project-Based Learning in and through the arts, some people look at us funny. They say things like

“isn’t project-based learning the same thing as what you do in the arts all the time anyway?”

Yes and no. Sometimes, we’re using project-based learning and sometimes, we’re just doing projects.

Our resident PBL expert and director of eLearning, Brianne Gidcumb, shares a handy chart to identify whether or not what you’re doing is really project-based learning:

Are You Using Projects or Project-Based Learning, Education Closet


There’s nothing wrong, of course, with using a project in your classroom! But if you’re looking for a way to go deeper and to integrate that project authentically in and through the arts, project-based learning is your next step.

This chart helps to clarify some ways that we can integrate true PBL into what we’re already doing! If you’re interested in learning more about how to do that, be sure to check out our online course Project Based Learning in the Arts.

There are so many varieties of PBL out there: project-based, problem-based, and even process-based learning. In the end, I think it’s all about learning what will work for you, your students and your classroom.

With any project, the key always lies in how you got to the finished presentation. No matter what it is – a project for your class, a new craft you’re working on, or even a project to spruce up your home – the intention and the journey are what sets it apart.

Learn more about project-based learning with these resources online:




About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan