Project Based Learning (PBL) in PE

I remember when I started working at my school I didn’t really understand what PBL was or how much I would come to LOVE using it in my classes. Over the last 4 years I have come to appreciate how PBL can help my students understand what I am trying to teach them. Throughout this blog post I am going to talk about what PBL is and how you can implement it in your classroom too!

What is project based learning?

According to, “Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.”

An easier way to think about PBL is learning about a subject with the end result being project, presentation, creation that solves a real world problem.

Why should you use PBL in your classroom?

Personally, I love PBL for the real world connections. Students are learning about material and connecting it to the real world at the same time. This increases student engagement and their willingness to do their best and actually attempt to engage in the learning process. We all know our students do better when they can connect the material to themselves and how it affects them or someone they care about. PBL really focuses on that real world connection. I know that I would much rather create a video on the correct squat form than take a written test on it (for example).

PBL also taps into the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy which is creation. Most of the time PBL will require students to create something using the knowledge they have acquired.

This type of teaching strategy also usually requires a level of collaboration between students in the class. It requires a level of real world application in the development of the project, not just the project outcome itself. Students of different backgrounds must learn how to work together, divide the responsibilities or tasks of the project, and solve the problem together. All of those are qualities they will need at the next level whether that be higher education or in the workforce. This is the most challenging part of PBL for me as a teacher. We all know there are those students who don’t want to do the work and you must figure out how to motivate them (as well as their group members) to solve the problem.

So how can you use PBL in the PE classroom?

I believe incorporating PBL in PE is simple. In general I want all my students to find something they love that they feel they can continue to engage in for a lifetime. So my entire goal as a PE teacher is to have them understand WHY physical activity is important and how being active affects our bodies. I make this goal something we talk about frequently, so this goal is already a problem we need to solve throughout the year. How can each student find something they love to do that keeps them active. That is a real world problem that I introduce day 1. For some students they believe that activity may be basketball or football, so we talk through how those activities, while great, may not be something they can continue to do when they are 50. They then (hopefully) buy in to the other activities I present throughout the year. I use my projects and PBL to help students see why certain activities are important and why they should do them.

PBL examples I use in my classes

  • Resistance Exercise Infographic: students create an infographic about a resistance topic of their choosing (such as strength training for women, strength training for adolescents, pro’s vs cons of crossfit etc). The goal is to have students understand the importance of strength training in a topic of their choosing. Student choice will motivate more students to do their best and learn something! I have gotten some really awesome infographics during this assignment over the years.
Sample Resistance Exercise Infographic
  • Bone Loading Exercise PSA Video- Students create a public service announcement about the importance of bone loading exercise in different stages of life (adolescence, middle age, elderly). This project is meant to be a group project so students really have to work together to make this come to life!
  • Macronutrient Choice Board- this is great for in person or virtual learning. Students choose (STUDENT CHOICE!!) a macronutrient and create a graphic (online), poster board (in person), etc about that macronutrient. I used this one year and had students create them in class with donated magazines. Students had to look through the photos and try to find examples of the macronutrient they chose along with researching about that nutrient.
  • Create a strength circuit group project- Students work together to come up with strength exercise stations, learn the proper form, and run a circuit workout for the class. This is one of my favorites and the students too because they get to be me for a day!
  • Build a mini golf course hole- This may not qualify as PBL as much as STEM (since there isn’t a “problem” to solve, but it is SO FUN! Have your students build a mini golf course hole, then play the holes. When we do this I break my class up into groups and build multiple holes, they build them, then the class plays them (sometimes even other classes come to play) then they vote on the favorite.

These are just some of the favorites I have used in my classes but there are so many more! I challenge you to use PBL in your classroom!

Learn more about PBL– these resources have a lot of information about what PBL is, the research behind it, as well as examples!

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