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Resource Guide
Prepared by: Brianne DeFrang




Resource Guide
Prepared by Brianne DeFrang


What is Project Based

In this section, well be sharing the inquiry-learning process,
why its important, and how it grounds project-based
learning, arts integration and process-based learning
through the umbrella of inquiry.


Inquiry-Based Learning

1. Student-centered
2. Explores real-world questions and
3. Emphasizes the 4-Cs
(Communication, Creativity,
Collaboration, Critical Thinking)
4. Authentic learning and
intrinsically motivated

I believe that for teachers to attempt to align the arts to the PBL process, the key will be to
focus on the emphasis of student inquiry. Allowing students to explore arts topics through
inquiry-based learning provides students with an opportunity to make their learning more
authentic, to gain knowledge based in standards, and to develop 21st century learning skills
such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity.
Here are some ways you can start:
Draw from essential questions. Essential questions keep us accountable to our
standards, and these essential questions are built right into the framework of the new
National Core Arts Standards. By adapting these questions to guide students to a specific


A cyclical process

learning objectives, we can begin bringing inquiry into the arts.


Rooted in constructivism

Let students take ownership of their learning. This is a hard one for someone who
loves control as much as I do. If we can let go and trust our students to guide their own
learning, this creates buy-in. (What do you want to know about this subject? How do you
want to learn this? What can you listen/look for?) Of course, there are times for explicit,
teacher-led instruction, but there are times when I can let go of the reigns and allow


students to make their own choices. Our goal is recognize these

heard Taylor Swifts I Knew You Were Trouble on the radio, and as I

opportunities and take a step back.

sang along, I realized this was a great real-world application of the very

Focus on the process. At the heart of many current educational

initiatives is a focus on process, habits, and learning and life skills. Of
course we want students to master content: thats what we are responsible
for. But deeper than that, we want our students leaving our classrooms
with the tools to be successful in life. By providing students choice, asking
them to inquire and investigate, helping them develop the skill to solve
problems, and to provide a structure in which they can share what theyve
learned, regardless of the content area, we are allowing them an

concept my kids were having so much difficulty with. I had the students
listen to the song the next day, guiding them to listen for a re-do pattern,
and two years later, they are still singing it with Kodaly hand signs, able
to identify the melodic concept.

By integrating the theory with

something relatable to kids, the learning stuck. Inquiry-based learning

should be based in real-world connections, in something tangible to
children, and so my resolution is to create inquiry-based experiences that
students will relate to and retain.

opportunity to practice a process they will need to be successful in life,

and the bonus is that they will walk away with a deeper understanding of
Make real-world connections. When students make meaning, the
learning sticks. A couple of years ago, I was teaching the melodic

Need some quick inquiry-based strategies and resources to make this a

bit easier in your classroom? Our class Project-Based Learning in
the Arts can help you with that and provide you with 10 PD hours.
Click here for more details.

concept of re (a note on the musical scale) to my second grade

students, and they were struggling with it. As I drove home one day, I



Projects vs. Project-Based Learning

1. Based in process (inquiry, design,



2. Based in real-life questions or

Authentic learning and

About the product

Requires collaboration and

teacher guidance
About the process

intrinsically motivated


Is student-directed

Students creating a project or

All projects have the same goal

Students make choices that

determine the outcome

Products are submitted to the

Lack real-world relevance

Products are presented to an

authentic audience
Based in real-world experiences
or problems

Occur after the real learning

Real learning occurs through

the project



Can be done alone

Project-Based Learning

product with an authentic

audience and purpose

With project-based learning, students learn by

designing and constructing actual solutions to real
life problems.
- George Lucas

There are many similarities between PBL and IBL. Project-based learning actually
falls under the umbrella of inquiry-based learning.


Driving Questions to Guide Artistic Inquiry

A driving question is presented at the beginning of an inquiry based
learning experience as the frame for the project. A good driving question
is one that focuses all other questions towards a solution or
product (leadingpbl.org). It is open-ended, engages high-level thinking,
and requires students to synthesize information from multiple sources,

Consistent with standards (aligned with assessment and learning

Lends itself to collaboration and cross-disciplinary work
Where do we begin?

experiences, and activities.

The essential questions in the National Core Arts Standards are a great
Characteristics of a quality driving question:
Open-ended enough to allow for individual investigation
Relevant to students (resembles issues/problems/questions students
might encounter in the real world)
Meaningful to students (resembles a real-world problem or issue)
Supports self-directed learning through multiple activities and sources

place to begin looking at how to develop driving questions in the arts.

Whether or not your state has adopted them, I think these essential
questions that are built right into the standards are a great asset in
looking at how we can take what we already do as arts educators and just
frame it from an inquiry standpoint. Look at the standard you want to
accomplish, and work up to the essential question. From there, you can
rephrase it to give students some direction. Your driving question should
be open-ended enough to allow for students to take different paths,and
also specific enough to drive them towards a product.

Involves authentic problem-solving

In Visual ArtIf you want your students to explore a particular
element of visual art, you might pose the question, How can the


principle of rhythm be incorporated into an art composition? Through

student investigation, they will explore examples from various artists and
movements, and create a composition of their own to demonstrate their
understanding of the element of rhythm. They might also provide a

What is the purpose of public art?

What choices must an artist make before beginning a work?
How can familiar stories be adapted for the stage?

critique of various examples of rhythm in existing artwork. Its up to you

to frame how you want students to demonstrate their understanding.

How can we create a piece of collaborative artwork that will give

viewers some information on our home state?

In MusicHow do musicians select repertoire? This essential

question is pulled from National Core Music Standard #4. Rather than
programming a concert or performance for your students on your own,
this question could be reframed and specified to a particular genre, and
students could program a musical revue for performance.
Examples of arts-related driving questions:

How can we recycle materials to create a musical instrument?

Online resources for developing driving questions:
New Mexico State University Developing the Driving Question
Widget: This instructional widget guides you through the process of
creating an open-ended, standards-aligned, interdisciplinary inquiry

Where do artists get their ideas?


How has art changed through time?

Buck Intitute for Education Tubric: This resource, a free download,

designed to help you practice writing driving questions by framing initial

Is the artists intention relevant to the viewer?

words, person or entity, action or challenge, and audience/purpose.


Project Based Learning Online Resource: Go to Module 2 to see a video

in which a team goes through the process of developing a quality driving
question for a cross curricular project.
Driving Questions ePortfolio: A great resource to help you design quality

Looking for a quick reference sheet of sample inquiry questions that

would be beneficial in a PBL/Arts Classroom? We have a fantastic
list created in our bonus area of the Project Based Learning in the
Arts Online Mini Course. You can access it here.

open-ended and driving questions. I especially like the Guidelines for

Writing Effective Driving Questions.
100 Sample Art-based Driving Questions: A list of 100 driving questions
for interdisciplinary projects from North Lawndale College Prep Charter
High School. This list is a great place to find samples of driving questions
that you can adjust to fit your content and/or grade level.
Leading Project Based Learning: Another great online resource that
defines and clarifies what makes a good driving question.
Moving to inquiry based learning is simply a shift in how we plan. The
key is to start small. Take something you already do successfully and just
frame it with a question until you become more comfortable with the
inquiry process in the arts/art integrated classroom.



The PBL Process

This section contains the guiding principles behind
planning for a PBL lesson or unit, as well as some ideas to
help you get started.


Extreme Makeover: Projects to Project-Based Learning

1. Teacher provides an entry event.

2. Students take on the project,
possibly assigning roles.
3. Students gather background
knowledge needed for their

It is so important that we educators ensure that educational initiatives that are developed
perhaps with other content areas in mind allow for authentic, meaningful instruction in our
content areas. The idea of taking on a project based learning approach can seem quite
overwhelming at first. Heres an example of how you can take a traditional visual arts
project and, with a few tweaks, turn it into a true project-based learning experience.

4. Teacher and students work

collaboratively to develop criteria
for evaluating projects.

It is tradition that the 5th grade students of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School

5. Students design, create and

prepare projects for presentation.

painting, and individually contribute artistic elements to the painting. Students engage in

collaborate on a painting that is presented to the school at the end of the year. Throughout
the course of their 5th grade year, students brainstorm painting themes within a specified
topic and vote on a theme. Students then collaborate on this topic, decide what to add to the
discussion on how to make the painting more cohesive, on elements to add or change, and
how to more clearly communicate the theme. This entire project lasts 22 weeks and is

6. Students present the project.

completed entirely in the art classroom.

7. Students reflect on the process

and evaluate projects.


Pose an essential, driving question, such as How can we create a piece
of collaborative artwork that will give viewers some information on our
home state? Allow students brainstorm topics related to their home state
of Illinois (i.e., landmarks, historical figures, species, etc.). They agree to
create a collaborative piece on endangered species of Illinois, which
invites the collaboration of the science teacher and the librarian. In small

collaboration, as well individually on a chosen element of visual art. At

the end of the year, the painting is presented to the school to be
Tips for turning projects into project-based learning:
Frame the project with an essential question, open-ended enough to
allow students some freedom and choice.

groups, students will research endangered species of Illinois and, in their

Look to the final artistic product or performance and work backwards,

groups, decide on a type of animal to add to the painting. You might be

allowing students to drive the direction and/or content of that product.

able to secure a guest speaker from a wildlife conservation agency or plan

a field experience to gather more information on the subject. As students
collaborate on their artistic work, they also journal on this experience:
what it is like to be a small part of a collaborative art work, the choices
they have made in their own artistic additions to the painting, to what
they have learned, to how it has impacted them. These journals may be
reviewed and/or assessed by any of the students teachers, depending on
what has been agreed upon among the team of teachers collaborating.
Students will be assessed in the group by the art teacher on their

Start small- there is no need to start a PBL with every section of every
grade level you teach. Start with something manageable.
Take what you are already doing successfully and make adjustments to
allow for more inquiry and student voice and choice.
Allow for cross-curricular integration where it occurs naturally.
Sometimes a framework is all you need to walk you through the
steps and boost your confidence. You can find one here in our PBL class.



PBL and the Arts

In this section, we cover how the arts naturally fit into the PBL process,
some challenges and considerations to keep in mind before heading
down this path and how to ensure the authenticity of the arts is
honored throughout a PBL lesson or unit.

Why PBL and the Arts Need Each Other


Problem based learning and arts
integration can and should be a
natural fit.

PBL places the emphasis on how we come to know something, and less on what we know.
PBL is a shift away from teaching to the test. While it is rooted in standards, it is process and
inquiry based. PBL employs creative processes like the design process, which naturally aligns

1. Inquiry, creative, and design

process alignment

to creative processes used in the arts.

The arts are project-based by their very nature, and encourage skills that have been
identified as those essential for students to be college and career ready: creativity,

2. Both PBL and arts integration are

transdisciplinary in nature

collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. As students work to create works and
performances in art, music, drama, and dance, they generate original ideas, make
inferences, ask questions, create, refine, and evaluate their own work. What more can we ask
for in our classrooms?

3. Meaningful products are shared

through an in-depth process.

We are preparing students for a future we cannot predict, for jobs that dont exist yet, and
with that in mind, it is essential that we are preparing students for lifelong learning in all
content areas and for all kinds of careers, including those in the arts.
Why the arts need PBL
We as arts teachers already know that many of the processes and skills that are used in
teaching Common Core contents are easily and often transferred into the teaching of art,


music, drama, and dance. Once we gain a better understanding of

how to authentically use inquiry-based approaches in a way that
honors the inquiry process as well as the teaching of arts contents, we
provide students with an opportunity to make their learning more
authentic, to gain knowledge based in standards, and to develop 21st
century learning skills.
Arts educators can ramp up the rigor of arts contents by infusing the
inquiry process into teaching of the arts, and allowing students to
enjoy more voice and choice in the creation of their artistic
products. We can make manageable adjustments to our own teaching
to include authentic cross-curricular connections and real-world
contexts without sacrificing time or the integrity of the explicit
teaching of the arts.




Next Steps
Now that you have the basic tools and understand the process, how do
you put it all together? This last section offers suggested next steps to
move you from thinking about PBL to actually using PBL with success!

Your Next Steps


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This guide is truly just scratching the surface of what you can do with
Project-Based Learning in the Arts. In fact, when thinking about trying to

All online and self-paced - flexible

to your schedule.
12 Video Lessons (15 minutes

use PBL in your classroom or weave it in and through the arts, it may seem a
bit overwhelming.
Thats why your next step should be learning how to piece it all together in a
sequence that works.
precious time.

Dont reinvent the wheel - thats a waste of your

Instead, we invite you to check out our brand new mini-

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16+ Templates and Worksheets
Bonus area with lessons for both
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PD certificate for 10 hours.

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This course isall online and completely self-paced with 12 video lessons, 16+
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