Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is a PBU?

For teachers in the tri-city districts (Everett, Malden, and Medford), project-based units (PBUs) are interdisciplinary units that require students to perform and apply Internet-based research in order to complete a final project that demonstrates their learning. PBUs have two separate and distinct segments – (1) a student component, based upon the WebQuest model, that allows students to conduct teacher-directed, Internet-based research to sharpen their problem-solving and analytical skills. Using an inquiry-based approach, students investigate problems and issues in a step-by-step manner as outlined in the PBU. Students’ synthesized learning is evidenced in the successful completion of a culminating PBU project; and, (2) a teacher component that offers detailed directions and notes to teachers interested in implementing the unit. The rationale for the development of the PBU is also explained in this section, along with the specific district curriculum outcomes and student technology competencies that the PBU is designed to address.

All PBUs were produced by Everett, Malden, and Medford teacher teams who developed the essential question central to each PBU, selected safe Internet sites for students to explore, created activities where students apply their research, and designed a final related project that integrates student learning across disciplines. Teacher teams designed PBUs so that students can use technology to enhance their academic content and skill knowledge. This successful integration of technology into the curriculum to improve student learning was a major goal of the PBU development process.

All PBUs can be searched by a number of different criteria (i.e,, theme, title, contributors, grade levels, subject areas, timeframe) in an effort to assist teachers in finding and selecting an appropriate PBU.

2. How do the teaching strategies used during PBU Implementation differ from traditional teaching?

For tri-city PBUs, the teacher serves as a facilitator or guide to encourage and support students as they complete PBU activities and projects. Learning is student-focused, with the emphasis on collaborative student groupings. Student groups work together, devising solutions to problems that, often, even the teacher cannot anticipate. In this way, both teachers and students assume the role of learners, with the teacher modeling problem-solving strategies to students who are synthesizing Internet-based information in an attempt to create successful final projects. Since each student group processes information differently, each group will most likely produce a different "final project" outcome. Consequently, PBUs are not designed so that students in the class collectively arrive at the right answer; many right answers are and should be possible during student PBU exploration.

Whereas student silence often signifies a successful traditional classroom that has as its focus the teacher dispensing information to quiet, listening students, constructive noise signals the successful PBU classroom, where students are engaged with their peer groups as they research and problem solve together.

3. How long will it take to implement a PBU?

The teacher component of each PBU will indicate the length of time it will take to implement a selected PBU in its entirety. Depending upon staff, time, and access to technology, segments of a PBU can be implemented without completing the whole unit; however, in many PBUs the elimination of sections will make it difficult, if not impossible, to complete the final integrated project as planned and described,

Teacher teams designed PBUs to be an enriching, interdisciplinary curriculum, so the more PBU sections that can be completed, the more enhanced will be the learning experience for students.

4. How many computers do I need to implement a PBU?

Each PBU can be implemented using various computer configurations with Internet access, from a one-computer classroom to a computer lab. The optimal computer set-up allows each student collaborative team to have access simultaneously to one computer (i.e., five student teams = five computers). The teacher component of the selected PBU will offer suggestions for PBU implementation for different levels of computer access.