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PBL, IBL, Constructivism…

...and how they’re different.

Hello and welcome to the 44th edition of our fortnightly newsletter, Things in Education.

Pedagogy refers to the instructional strategies used by a teacher that enable learners to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes aligned to the learning objectives. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 requires that pedagogies such as Project-Based Learning (PBL) and Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) be used in classrooms to ensure hands-on and deep learning. However, in our work with schools, we have often seen that PBL, IBL and Constructivist approaches are not well understood, and very often these terms are used interchangeably. Within this context, we thought it would be useful to dedicate an edition of our newsletter to summarising and comparing these pedagogies.

To do this, we will use the same learning outcome and explain how each pedagogy deals with that learning outcome differently. The learning outcome is: Students will be able to explain why some animals have hair or feathers on their skin and how they help them to adapt to their environment.

Project-Based Learning

We wrote about PBL in the 7th edition of our newsletter. Here is a summary of this pedagogical approach:

In order to meet the learning outcome using a PBL approach, the teacher can first show students pictures of different animals, like lions, peacocks, polar bears and penguins, and ask students to share what they notice about their appearance and where they think these animals live. This can be followed by an explanation of how special features and behaviours help animals survive in their environments. The teacher then presents students with a newly-discovered animal, informing students that we don’t know where this animal came from or what its natural habitat is. The animal can be shown as a simple model made out of craft material, such as cardboard, cotton, fake fur, etc. As students continue to learn about different animals as well as their adaptations and habitats in class, they work in groups on their project to figure out and create this newly-discovered animal’s habitat. The teacher can also provide them with additional reading resources, templates to note their findings, and opportunities to go out of the class to observe habitats and animals around them. Alongside, the teacher uses a rubric to assess how well students have understood the concepts and how they are applying their understanding to their project. Soft skills such as teamwork, communication and research can also be included in this assessment rubric.

Inquiry-Based Learning

We wrote about IBL in the 11th edition of our newsletter. Here is a summary of this pedagogical approach:

In order to meet the learning outcome using an IBL approach, the teacher can ask students to imagine they are wildlife detectives exploring the mysteries of animal survival, focusing on how animals like the polar bears manage to stay warm in the freezing Arctic. Show them pictures of different animals with hair or feathers on their skin, such as a lion, a peacock, a polar bear, and a penguin, and ask them to observe and think about why these animals have hair or feathers on their skin. Next, ask students to form groups and come up with some questions that they want to investigate about the topic. For example, they might ask: ‘How do hair or feathers help animals to keep warm? How do you think these hair or feathers help them survive in their habitats? What are some advantages and disadvantages to having hair or feathers?’ In groups, students then begin work on a research project, working on their questions. The teacher must provide students with the resources, such as books, articles, and material for experimentation. The teacher must also guide students to use the resources to find evidence and information that answers their question and help them analyse the evidence. Finally, each group must present its findings to the class in a format of their choosing, such as a poster, a slideshow or a model. As they present, the teacher can use a rubric to assess students on how well they have understood the concept.


We wrote about Constructivism in the 41st edition of our newsletter. Here is a summary of this pedagogical approach:

In order to meet the learning outcome using a constructivist approach, the teacher can start by letting students know that they will be figuring out why some animals have hair or feathers on their skin and how they help them to adapt to their environment. Then, begin the lesson by reading a tale of how the penguin got its waterproof hair. Ask questions to relate the story with how features help animals survive in their environment: ‘How do penguins use their waterproof feathers to survive in cold and wet environments? How are the feathers of a duck different from the feathers of a penguin? How do these differences relate to their lifestyles and behaviours?’ Show them some pictures of different animals with hair or feathers, such as a rabbit, a duck, a penguin, and a peacock. Ask them to observe the pictures and share what they notice about the animals’ appearance and where they live. Follow this up with an activity in which students have to match craft materials that resemble white thick fur, brown fur, wings feathers, and small waterproof feathers with different habitats. Provide them with some resources to explore the topic further, such as books, videos, websites, or articles. Give them some specific questions to answer, such as: ‘Why did you use this for each animal’s body covering? How do you think these body coverings help the animals survive in their habitats? What are some similarities and differences between the body coverings of these animals?’ Conclude the lesson by summarising the main points and providing some clear information about the topic. Explain that some animals have hair or feathers on their skin because they help them adapt to their environment by providing insulation, protection, camouflage, signalling, or flight. Emphasise that hair and feathers are examples of adaptations that result from natural selection and evolution.


We hope these summaries and examples have helped you see the differences and strengths of each pedagogical approach. The defining feature of project-based learning is that there is a long-term ongoing project which the students learn from trying to finish the project. For example, by finishing a project on creating a model of the solar system the students will learn that there are eight planets in the solar system, their order and how they revolve around the Sun. Inquiry does not feature here. In inquiry classroom must have students engaging in an inquiry. Students must be trying to answer a big (or small) question. There may be no project. For example, an inquiry on Shakespearean England’s society based on his play, Romeo and Juliet is not a project but just an inquiry. And finally, the defining feature of constructivism is that students are recalling previous knowledge and building on the previous knowledge. They also make connections between what they know, and the new material presented to them. And this can happen irrespective of whether it’s an inquiry classroom or a direct instruction classroom.

At Things Education, we are working on an online tool for teachers to help them access research-backed teaching strategies aligned to learning outcomes and pedagogical approaches, just like we have done in this edition. If you’d like to explore this web-app for yourself or your school, please write back to us for early access.


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Edition: 2.18

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