The Advanced Placement Curriculum in a Project Based Learning Environment

"There is a profound disconnect between what students are taught and tested on in most high schools today and how they are expected to learn, versus what the world will demand of them as adults and what motivates them to do their best."
--- Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap

The Broken Escalator:

Please register for an account with the Buck Institute for Education:

  • Materials are available for download
  • Links to videos and success stories
  • Forum to ask specific questions, including AP/GATE

What is PBL?

  • "The Main Course" of the unit
  • Engaging in meaningful discovery of an authentic based curriculum
  • Demonstration of learning NOT a memorization of facts!
  • Student-directed
  • The building of 21st Century Skills (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking)

Misconceptions about PBL - Especially in an AP Environment

  • I can't cover enough material
  • It's fun, but where is the real learning?!
  • There is no individual accountability
  • It takes up too much time
  • I already do PBL....

Success Stories of PBL in AP Courses

University of Washington and Bellvue, WA schools (Government)

Integrating PBL into an Advanced Environmental Chemistry Course

Regional Educational Laboratory Program/U.S. Dept. of Ed. (Economics)

Final Exams Disappearing from Higher Ed....

Environmental Studies Joshua Tree National Park

AP Government

Tools of PBL Design
  • Driving Question
    • Begin with the End in Mind
    • Open-Ended
      • Open-Ended
      • Authentic
      • Standards Based
      • Example: "How does the political system of today reflect the ideological and philosophical traditions inspired by the Framers of the Constitution?"
  • Create a "Need to Know"
    • Engagement
    • Hook
  • Inquiry
    • Higher Order Thinking Skills - Create not memorize
    • Don't just answer questions - Create new questions and solve problems!
    • What do we need to know and why?
  • 21st Century Skills
    • Technology to support the project - not be the project
    • Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication are key
  • Student Driven/Teacher Facilitated
    • Allow for student options
    • Want to encourage independent thinking
  • Feedback and Revision
    • Create checks for students - will lead to higher quality work
  • Public Audience
    • Teacher and class are NOT enough!
    • Professionals, peers from around the country and world, lower level grades, etc.

High School Example: Media Saves the Beach:

Example AP Projects

Please note: Some of the projects would need to be adapted to fit the BIE 8 needed categories in order to be considered PBL. They are, however, an excellent starting point for ideas. (Various Bio and Chem projects) (Mostly science, but some social studies) (Literature) (Government) (Online History Museum that included podcasts for the virtual tour) (APUSH summer reading assignment)

Project Planning Form

Please download the project planning form from BIE to help you get started in planning your PBL assignment:

Concluding Thoughts

Please post any question on the PBL Edmodo Community

Lost Generation Video:

College Board Changes