Rosemary Rizk
E-learning coordinator

Project-Based Learning

For those teachers who hand out the assignment before teaching the skills. I was wondering what your views were on Project Based Learning where students learn on the go and your teaching is synchronised with the assignment requirements. Does it work or have you tried more effective approaches.

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Comments (27)

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Krysia Jeffries

Posted on 10/30/18 7:12:52 AM Permalink

I love project-based learning. It is collaborative and is a great way to display authenticity and validity in their learning in creating an end-product.​

Kevin Cummins

Posted on 10/23/18 3:21:09 AM Permalink

My students loved project-based learning when we did passion projects instead of homework for a semester. Some of the best learning, and really visible to parents.

Romeo Jr Catap

Posted on 8/15/18 4:55:45 PM Permalink

Handling the Millennial or Gen Alpha type of learners, for my classroom experience, manuals or handouts by reading does little, since they are usually in the lower order thinking skill. Since my course is product design, there is more retention in demonstrating a process face-to-face, than giving out steps in soft copy. Second effective method could be a video that they can refer to, that can be controlled on their own pace while doing forms or psycho motor-based learnings.


Posted on 8/15/18 12:11:07 PM Permalink

​we now do outcome based-education, primarily we find it more effective to let students do project based work, it does not only improve academically but rather develop soft skills whenever they work in group.

Eleanor Morison

Posted on 8/10/18 5:26:28 AM Permalink

I've been doing the school Yearbook for years - and last year for the first time I got my students to make it. This was fantastic project based learning - very rich for the students and helped me enormously. Only problem was that the deadline for the book was inflexible and this was something my students were not entirely sympathetic about. Assessment? I was able to accurately assess them on their ability to create a double page spread in Indesign​. Each student was responsible for one event or one teaching area of the school. I'm going to do the same thing this year.

Faten khalil

Posted on 8/4/18 1:23:49 PM Permalink

I tried to use PBL in my junior high school classroom to teach InDesign and Photoshop but I found that junior students require more guidance, they depend on step by step instructions and they do the project in smaller parts. That works well for them but I am not satisfied with their retention rate. By the time they learn new tool they had forgotten about the previous one. I think, for junior high school students, the learning should be skill-based at first where they learn the tools separately using modeling and step by step instructions and spending enough time learning each tool and how its used and then complete a project based on the tools learned and not the other way around.

Dominique Echeverri

Posted on 6/28/18 10:06:30 PM Permalink

​For the past 18 yrs (yes, you can do the math), I developped all my teaching approach on PBL. The way I have always done it is by giving them the info with "tutorial" style approach using text, graphics and, most important, video montages where I show them, with my voice and a screencasting solution, what they should do. It works really well and I highly recommend this way of teaching. This way of doing is used for grades 10 and 11. Grade 12 is more based on internet based tuts.

Matthew Wager

Posted on 5/31/18 8:45:16 AM Permalink

Hi Rosemary,

The following link is an excellent read and discusses both sides of the debate. Pg82 onwards looks at the use of PBL in medical training, finding that "PBL may hinder the development of the forward reasoning pattern"

Carlos Andres Orozco Palacio

Posted on 5/1/18 8:18:45 PM Permalink

​Well i work for some time in a institution used this method for learning process, and i can say this method can be amazing with a great organization and fulfil the time stipulate in the main learning project to be successful.

enrique perez

Posted on 3/9/18 8:09:03 PM Permalink

​Hi. My approach has been the following:

First, I teach Adobe Photoshop to high schoolers grades 10-12.

I introduce the tools and menus i want for them to learn (skills) and then I may show them an example either i have created, or another class form previous years have. I do that, so they can get the idea of "If they did it-then I can do it too!) problem i have found with this approach is the designs i get very close resembles what they "saw" versus what they found on their own.

I try to give them days if not a whole week for them to finish one project:

Day 1 Lesson intro and materials

Day 2-4 Students work on their projects (All while being ok to talk to others in a relaxed classroom setting, sharing ideas and tips on Photoshop)

Day 5 Turn in their work in google-classroom and the following Monday we discuss our project, answer a few questions related to the Project and critic each others work.

I learned Photoshop pretty much on my own. I want my students to have the same experience, but with "some" guidance from me obviously; as an instructor. If you're interested on what my students learn thru PBL practices, I invite you to see our Lessons online at:

Brian Stafford

Posted on 1/17/18 9:22:36 AM Permalink

My experience with about 8 Adobe Project based books with 40 to 200 detailed steps per project: they make good demos, but are very frustrating to students, and suffer from a lack of retention and a lack of setting the big picture.​ Head First books motivate small tasks with rich stories and many "Oops that wasn't a flexible or robust approach" learning opportunities. In that direction, I am getting better results by teaching very few steps at a time. Details in micro projects, guidance in mini projects, then free form play which I nudge until they demonstrate a happy depth and breadth of skill.

I start with a few tools, giving a lot of single step work to build basics and an appreciation for tool differences. For instance: select 10 individual leaves with each of 3 selection tools. Students get drawn into the compulsive nature of such detail work and quickly appreciate the best use of each tool. Add a setting or extra technique to each tool, and repeat. Then work ultra simple drills for tools that can use selections. Motivate play with a few tool combinations. Then give open ended or free form projects to playfully combine as many tool uses as they can dream up. Students get the practice of hundreds of clicks, while never having to focus on more than a few new steps or a few new tool-click-key combinations.

Students can progress to impressive and rewarding projects which require very little detail in guidance. Nice in theory. Not likely captured in a book that a student will progress through. I've only seen this work with one on one instructor time combined with sprinkles of tutor or partner roles for students. You have to pull in the disengaged students, redirect bored students to some compulsive work, and keep advancing students happy with tutoring or advanced tidbits.

I am trying to emulate two of my teachers. Teachers who put books aside. Teachers with mystical class leadership skills.

Can anyone recommend a book on mystical class leadership skills?

Mihai Zahiu

Posted on 12/12/17 11:21:37 AM Permalink

I believe PBL is amazing. When I was in university we had to learn everything by heart from books. It had a value but now when I'm teaching the students in the Fabrication Lab I can see that they are more involved with the PBL courses.
And yes, its true, the balance is the key. You have to teach them a bit of everything and after just lead them to find the right solution.
I just wanna say that sometimes it worries because I'm afraid of them to be shallow. Here, in Denmark, I'm working in a professional academy (not a university) and its a goal to make students specialize, become professional in a field. And the way we have the plan is one part teaching (a small one), one part PBL, one part supervising and the rest is students learning by doing, alone. And this is almost half of the time.
So my worry is that now we need to learn, more than ever, all the time. Upgrade our knowledge is a must to stay on the track. The same principal everywhere and I don't have any control solution for this.(students in this case)

Janette Wotherspoon

Posted on 10/3/17 1:26:38 AM Permalink

​Rosemary I use that process to teach Adobe InDesign to my Higher Ed fashion students. They have a combined business report, infographic and presentation assessment in my course that is directly aligned to their major research project in another course. The idea is that I teach them how to build the documents and presentations and posters using the research and information developed in the other course. It gives my assessment value and worth and allows them to be independent in their design ideas and creativity too. We encourage high standards and with a unified marking approach and a public presentation it drives them to create something that is visually and functionally high standard of work. I use my class to encourage them in a creative approach to project planning and development as well as learning the new and required software skills. There are problems when the content for the other course assessment is not developed in line with my calendar of teaching but I use those slow times to do lots of one to one help with software skills. It can be difficult to keep the students on a trajectory that means they will finish the project over a period of time rather than rushing at the end.

Faten khalil

Posted on 8/12/17 11:17:54 PM Permalink

​Thank you Rebecca.

Although sometimes the technology tool becomes the focus and not the content, as you mentioned earlier, I do agree it depends on the outcomes and if it is to teach the actual product, Photoshop or Illustrator, or to teach actual content like Digital Citizenship using Photoshop or Illustrator as a tool.

Rebecca Reiter

Posted on 8/12/17 2:41:44 PM Permalink

​Hi Faten-I have done this both ways successfully, but this is what I suggest. If the tool is going to draw away from the learning goal(s), either do a brief tutorial first or plan small group instruction for those students who begin to struggle with the tool. The answer to your question truly depends on the learning outcomes you seek.

Faten khalil

Posted on 8/12/17 12:45:26 PM Permalink

​Me too!!

Tony Fling

Posted on 8/6/17 2:29:09 AM Permalink

​PBL is great! It is how I learned photoshop.

Rebecca DeWeese

Posted on 6/2/17 3:58:56 PM Permalink

I taught my first multimedia class this year at a high school level and struggled with the same notion. Now that the year is over, I can tell you that balance is key. The balance between giving students basic instruction of tools and resources and giving them real world problems to solve meant I could keep my focus of the course on design. My class is not Photoshop 101. It is about learning design. I guess it depends on what the key focus of your class is and what you want your students to walk away knowing. I did struggle in the beginning more because my students wanted me to give them the answer to everything. I was adamant that they needed to discover answers on their own, but gave them the resources to find them. This is important especially because these programs change so frequently that I want them to learn how to find the answer when they need it. I found this article very helpful on how to guide and balance your time with PBL.

I hope you find it helpful too!

Nil Santana

Posted on 5/12/17 3:03:07 PM Permalink

​I've been teaching PBL for over twenty years now. That's also how I learned at design school. It surely works for hands-on disciplines, but I also like implementing lot of critical thinking.

ellen banner

Posted on 4/23/17 6:01:21 PM Permalink

It seems a lot of people judge project-based learning materials as if they are all videos or as if they are all step-by-step, and include no back-up info as to why to pick up this tool or that... Project based books that are designed for the classroom and written well will present the student with a typical client scenario, present options and discussions about clients and their needs. This is what the students will face if they continue in this field. Students will create the projects - learning while building the final faux customer solution. This is a format that works - some teachers have the time to write these projects and to update them with each and every update of the Adobe software. Others adopt books from publishers - one suggestion is Against The Clock. They don't have a big library of books, but they offer great project-based course materials for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Animate and Dreamweaver - and they have been around forever.

Sean Malone

Posted on 2/9/17 12:47:43 AM Permalink

I am a major advocate of PBL in the classroom, especially with making. The amount of real world problems and preparation students can become exposed to because of PBL is essential for the 21st century

When it comes to the Adobe suite, you can implement proficiency-based learning if you want to combine the standards and the PBL in the classroom. Students having to produce real, authentic products is essential in this day and age. The beauty of the Adobe suite is the real world professionals are using these tools, exposing students to them sooner rather than later puts them a step ahead progressing forward.

Charles Bourrier

Posted on 7/5/16 10:05:50 AM Permalink

As a student I had both approaches.
As a PBL approach, as a class we were supporting one another and the more advanced ones could develop new skills (and develop their own workflow) while the beginner learn the tools with the help of the most advanced students. The basic tools and interface were however quickly presented.
On a frontal approach, our skills were not growing furthermore it was on a tool by tool approach. Just felt useless.
For me the advantages of PBL in Adobe products:
— Allows student to develop their own working process with the products (we all work slightly differently)
— Allows the advanced students in my class to learn new tools while the beginners do learn as well

— I can link the assignments to other projects in their study process, making it a bit more interesting
— It also allows me to focus my mentoring on the non-technical skills, or bringing particular tools to particular students if needed.


Posted on 6/1/16 6:29:08 PM Permalink

I started teaching computer classes some time ago and definitely feel project based learning is always the best when dealing with technology. Regardless, what needs to be considered from the get go is what student level you are teaching, how often does the class meet, how long does the class meet.A course taught for K-12 will more than likely be completely different than Higher Ed. I teach at the university level. When I was teaching majors, at the same class level and with the same traditional skill set the course content was extremely easy to design and implement, we all used the same language which was translated easily into software lingo. I now teach elective classes that can be a mix of freshman to grads, fashion design to philosophy majors. One class focuses on the use of PS and AI for textile (Surface Pattern) design, and ID for presentation,it meets twice a week for 2.5 hours. I have students that usually have no clue about professional textile (Surface Pattern) design, some may know 1 of the software programs, some know none. Since this class has a focus it is delivered best thru project based learning. The other class has no specific means to an end except for students to learn PS, AI and ID for presentation. This class meets once per week for 5 hours - ARRGGHH. Not helpful, even with a break. This class has been the most difficult class to create, develop and teach. I provide students with files to use each week, the files correlate to the weekly lectures, the students are then given weekly assignments showing the application of what was covered. I am still delving into ways to change this, some complain it is too much work, others love the instructions for each assignment because it forces them to navigate thru the software. At the end of the semester they complete a final project, they select the tools to be used from an "approved" list. With the class being comprised of any combo of majors this has worked out well. As we all now if you don't use it you'll loose it. Yes, we are all dealing with students weaned on technology, but remember when they get a new cell - don't they still have to figure out how to use it ? Software is a tool, plain and simple, project based learning shows what the tool is and how to use it.

Rebecca Reiter

Posted on 5/15/16 7:09:22 PM Permalink

I work off of an essential question for an entire trimester. The skills and content are thematically woven together as we progress toward our final project. Currently, my students are creating skits about digital citizenship. The essential question studied was, "Should access to digital technology be a right or a privilege?" I have found weaving the content, skills, and technology together from the first day of class has its advantages and disadvantages. The benefits of this approach allow us to practice using the necessary tools and skills as the trimester progresses. The students then have greater expertise as they begin their own products. The disadvantages include the technology tool becoming the focus sometimes and not the content especially when the tool is challenging. Sometimes it is better to keep them separate. Overall, scaffolding is good practice, with the content, skills, and tools. Weaving the the three components together also affords more engagement and interaction. Some of the tools we weave together are theme-based discussion boards, games, videos, websites, and digital research. Overall, thematic PBL style learning has been quite effective for me and my students.

Joel Whitehead

Posted on 3/9/16 2:21:44 AM Permalink

I start at the end of the assignment at times, so my student can build a glossary of terms and see the end project, so that when they go through the lesson assignment that know what to pay attention to and it brings relevance to the assignment.

Donna Groves

Posted on 9/16/15 11:27:41 PM Permalink

No! Project based learning is not the same as OJT. One thing you need to keep in mind is the level the students can and can't handle. If you don't first teach these are where the retouching tools are located then this is how we use them, the students will fail. The projects will take forever. I tried this approach my first year teaching graphic design. I though, I've found some good video tutorials they can surely follow along and figure it out. But the first two months of my class are now dedicated to learning Photoshop and Illustrator inside out. No projects. The students love it and feel more confident. We do small things that can be accomplished in 20-30 minutes as a class. We have discussion about what types of things we could do with this. Then the following day we add a few steps. Now that you know how to apply a layer mask and create clipping masks lets place an image between two layers and make it look like it's really a part of the picture. Wow, that only took fifteen minutes. Otherwise that project would have take days. Trust me. We are four weeks into school and my Design I students know more about Adobe Photoshop than the kids who have been enrolled in the photography class across the hall.

Brian O'Dell

Posted on 8/13/15 1:57:06 AM Permalink

I do quite a bit of Project Based Learning. Over the years I have come to find out that the students become much more involved when they can work toward something that they have discussed and have been presented with opportunities to do. Watching presentations and reading from books is not what these students want. I think the more projects you have them do with the understanding of the tools and how they work, you'd be surprised how much students learn by doing. You can still show them techniques and use assessment tools but let them work and learn while you are implementing your strategies.