Project-Based Language Learning

    Since 2015, the NFLRC has created and amassed an immense array of resources for educators interested in incorporating Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) into their language classrooms. 

    How does the NFLRC define PBLL?

    Explore what we have to offer…

    New to PBLL?

    Get Inspired and Take the Plunge!

    What is PBLL?: Watch introductory videos

    Project Showcases: Watch videos about project development from start to finish

    Envisioning PBLL MOOC: Learn the fundamentals of PBLL in this online course

    Project Repository: Explore sample projects

    Novice Practitioner

    Deepen Your PBLL Knowledge and Practice

    Designing PBLL MOOC (under development): Learn how to plan for your project 

    Project Blueprint: Design Your Plan for PBLL

    Summer Institutes: Deepen your PBLL knowledge with colleagues

    Project Repository: Share your project

    PBLL Mentoring Program: Work one-on-one with a mentor

    Experienced Practitioner

    Fine-Tune Your Learning and Share Your Experience

    PBLL Short Courses: Explore intersections between PBLL and other topic areas

    PBLL Mentoring Program: Sign up to be a mentor

    Explore other PBLL resources

    And for those who desire a suggested course of study through all our many resources, we recommend the following Pathway to PBLL…

    1. Intro to Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL)

    What is Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL)?

    The NFLRC defines PBLL as a transformative learning experience designed to engage language learners with real-world issues and meaningful target language use through the construction of products that have an authentic purpose and that are shared with an audience that extends beyond the instructional setting. 

    PBLL can be conceived as a series of language learning tasks that are articulated toward a common goal: the construction of a public product representing a response to a challenging problem or question. 

    NFLRC work on project design is informed by PBLWorks guidelines and materials, such as Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements and High-­Quality Project­-Based Learning (HQPBL). These two complementary sets of guidelines, which took shape in the early and late 2010s, respectively, provide slightly different vantage points on well-designed PBL. The NFLRC made a conscious decision to base its work on PBLWorks guidelines and materials because they are widely used across schools in the U.S. and provide a common referent for project design for teachers in all content areas. The use of a common pedagogical model also helps to create opportunities for language instructors to collaborate with instructors in other disciplines. The integration of world language pedagogy, standards, and research into project design and teaching practices is central to all NFLRC work on PBLL.

    New to PBLL?

    Here are some videos that explain what project-based learning (PBL) is, offer additional considerations needed for project-based language learning (PBLL), and give examples of projects that have been developed in conjunction with the NFLRC:

    From PBL to PBLL

    From Project-Based Learning (PBL)…To Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL)!
    Defining High Quality Project-Based Language Learning (Presenter: Bob Lenz) from the NFLRC 2018 PBLL Online SymposiumDefining High Quality Project-Based Language Learning (Presenters: Lauren Scheller & Liliana Lopez) from the NFLRC 2016 PBLL Online Symposium
    Gold Standard Project Based Learning (Presenter: John Larmer) from the NFLRC 2018 Fundamentals of PBLL Online InstituteFrom PBL to PBLL: High Quality Project Based Language Learning in the 21st Century (Presenter: Cherice Montgomery) from the NFLRC 2018 Fundamentals of PBLL Online Institute

    Project Examples

    Featured Video – PBLL: Promoting Child Literacy in Brazil – In this video, you’ll meet Rachel Mamiya Hernandez (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa) who has applied principles of project-based learning (PBL) in a Portuguese language class. Key characteristics of her exciting project promoting child literacy in Brazil include real-world impact, student voice and choice, flexibility, and design thinking.

    Project Showcase: “Re-imagining Language Learning through PBLL” (Presenters: Chantal Esquivias & Lucía Rubio) from the NFLRC 2018 PBLL Online Symposium

    Project Showcase: “Gaming the curriculum: Creating board games for local Italian speakers” (Presenter: Barbara Bird) from the NFLRC 2018 PBLL Online Symposium

    Project Showcase: Not So Fast: Exploring Fast Food Influence on Italian Culture through PBLL (Presenter: Daniela Busciglio) from the NFLRC 2017 PBLL Online Symposium

    2. Learn the Fundamentals of PBLL

    Want to incorporate PBLL in your classroom?

    You’re in luck! The NFLRC has developed the Envisioning PBLL MOOC (massive open online courses), offered each year during the spring. In this free self-study course, participants can become familiar with the main concepts of high­-quality PBLL, and its outcome is an instructional design document called a Product Square. Conceptualized and adopted by NFLRC institute leaders in several PBLL and utilizing backward design, the Product Square prompts the project designer to consider how essential project elements are addressed and to identify what challenges may need to be overcome.

    Currently under development, a second MOOC, titled Designing PBLL, will take the next steps forward, applying the main concepts of high-­quality PBLL to the design of a specific project. Its outcome is an instructional design document called a Project Blueprint. The Project Blueprint outlines the main design aspects of a high­-quality project, including the challenging problem or question (“driving question”), relevant student learning outcomes (SLOs or “can-dos”) and associated assessments, and instructional tasks designed to activate second language acquisition processes.

    3. NFLRC Project Repository: Explore Sample Projects

    Need help thinking of project ideas?

    The Project Repository is a collection of standards-based instructional blueprints for instructors with instructions to guide the implementation of a project. Sample projects in this collection contain descriptions of the core elements of the projects, including a) a project summary, b) expected outcomes, c) task descriptions, sequences, and timelines; d) necessary scaffolding for content and technology; e) detailed assessment information and rubrics; and f) materials needed for implementation (e.g., student handouts, audiovisual or print materials).

    4. Project Blueprint: Design Your Plan for PBLL

    Planning a project can be a real challenge — not least because PBLL involves connecting with real-world communities as partners, informants, and maybe even as an audience. The Project Blueprint is intended to scaffold design for a high­-quality project. Think of it as a series of questions to ponder and answer in your very own copy of our Google Docs template. The Project Blueprint template takes you through the design of a project piece by piece, asking you to consider your challenging problem or question (“driving question”); generate anticipated “need-to-knows”; identify and reach out to your community partners; select relevant authentic materials; define student learning outcomes (SLOs or “can-dos”) and design associated assessments; and design instructional tasks leading toward those outcomes, among many other aspects of design.

    The Project Blueprint comes in several flavors. Here we offer you a “lite” version called the PBLL Project Design Overview as well as a version of the “full” document and a rubric that can be used to assess a completed Blueprint.

    Lite versionFull version
    On the “lite” side, PBLL Project  Design Overview. This choice is good for educators who would like to sketch out the “big idea” for a project.On the “fully detailed” side, PBLL Project Blueprint. This choice is good for educators who are ready to undertake full-scale, detailed planning of a project. Those using the Project  Blueprint may also be interested in the rubric used for assessing completed Project Blueprints.
    Use Google Docs’ “Save a copy…” function to start working on your own copy of these read-only documents.

    5. Summer Institutes: Deepen Your PBLL Experience

    Our PBLL Summer Institutes are designed for world language educators who have some knowledge of Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) as well as some practice in generating project ideas. During the Institute, participants flesh out their ideas for a project design they have already subjected to critique, assisted by colleagues and guided by language professionals with background in project-based learning, language pedagogy, instructional technology, and assessment.

    As a prerequisite, applicants must typically complete the Envisioning Project-Based Language Learning MOOC and earn a completion badge in order to qualify for consideration for the Institute.

    Since 2015, all our NFLRC Summer Institutes have focused on PBLL.

    6. Work & Learn with a PBLL Mentor

    The purpose of the Mentoring Program for Project-Based Language Learning is to leverage the experience and expertise of the skilled cadre of veteran PBLL practitioners who have participated in extended professional learning as resources supporting the professional learning of the rising generation of new PBLL practitioners. The mentors will be world language teachers who have completed the NFLRC PBLL Summer Institute or professional development offered by the Buck Institute for Education and implemented PBLL in their classes. The mentees are world language teachers who are interested in learning about PBLL and how to implement PBLL in their classrooms. One mentor will be paired with one mentee through a semester to provide support and consultation about PBLL. Mentors will also share their personal experiences and knowledge in adopting PBLL. Mentors and mentees will use open educational resources (OERs) on PBLL developed by NFLRC as supporting materials. The mentoring will be conducted virtually via email, phone, or videoconferences. After completing the mentoring program and submitting an evaluation survey, the mentor will be awarded with a digital badge as a PBLL Mentor.

    7. Fine Tune Your Learning: Intersections with PBLL

    High-Leverage Teaching Practices & PBLL (2019): As a follow-up to our popular HLTP Podcast series, we conducted a two-part webinar titled Harnessing HLTPs in PBLL, where we explored the question “What HLTP concepts would help me design, develop, and implement PBLL experiences more effectively?”  View the webinar videos to partake in the conversation.
    Integrated Performance Assessments & PBLL (2020): Similarly, following our new podcast series on Integrated Performance Assessments, we hosted another two-part webinar titled “Enacting Performance Assessment through PBLL,” which explores the question “How could Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA) be used as an integral component of Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL)?”

    More PBLL Resources