PBL Vocabulary


Listed below are several definitions of words we use frequently with Project Based Learning. If a link is provided at the end of the definition, it means that additional information or examples are provided for deeper understanding.

Academic Content Standards

Clearly defined statements and / or illustrations of what all students, teachers, schools and school districts are expected to know and be able to do. More details...


An attribute for self-improvement including the development of a growth mindset and taking ownership for one’s own learning.


Sub-tasks needed to complete the final product, something that every student or group must complete.

Classroom / team Courtesies / norms

Standards for interaction, outlining how group members should treat each other. Sometimes called agreements.


A document created and agreed upon by group members. This document governs how group members will interact over the course of a project.

Critical Friends

A practice and review technique that provides a way for peers to share their work and get constructive feedback for improvement prior to the actual presentation.


An online learning management tool created by the New Tech Network. Within this tool students, parents, and teachers can access daily agendas, student grades, and classroom resources.

Entry Document

Provided at the beginning of a project, an entry document sets the scene and outlines the product or problem for students. It provides key words or phrases that hint toward the need-to-know list. These ‘need to knows’ are based on content standards.

Entry Event

A document, video clip, guest speaker, or any other experience that sets the stage for the student task.

Final Product

Each project ends in a student-produced final product that requires students to demonstrate mastery of the core content and skills in an authentic / applicable way. Examples of possible final products are endless.

Growth Mindset

The idea that anyone can grow intelligence and skills through effort, practice, and challenge.

Need-to-Knows (NTK)

Skills, content, and logistical information required to complete a project. These are identified by learners as unknown, or requiring teacher support in acquiring and mastering.

New Tech Network

A non-profit organization that helps students gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, college, and the careers of tomorrow. The New Tech Network works nationwide with schools, districts, and communities to provide services and support that enable schools to implement innovative schools that promote deeper learning. More Details...

Next Steps

Concrete, prioritized, action items identified by learners as ways to address need-to-knows.

Problem Based Learning (PrBL)

Very similar to project based learning, problem based learning more often is used to focus on a single subject (math perhaps). In PrBL, the question / challenge tends to be shorter and may not involve the creation of a complex product for presentation.

Project Based Learning (PBL)

A teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.

Project Briefcase

Found in Echo, this is where students can access materials for the current project. This can include hand outs, links to documents, videos, notes and other resources used for the project.

Project Management Log

A tool for teams to use to plan and document their individual work on the project.


A tool used to measure something against a set of defined standards. Rubrics are used to communicate a teacher’s expectations for a given assignment.


Activities and resources (teaching) that help students master the content and skills needed to complete the project.

School Wide Learning Outcomes (SWLO)

College, career, and life readiness skills that go beyond traditional content standards. Mutually agreed upon by school staff and taught and assessed within the classroom: agency, collaboration, speaking, and writing.


An activity or presentation designed to address a particular need-to-know which often occurs in small groups. This is often a formal, direct instruction activity like a lecture.