Can Project Based Learning Create More Meaningful PE?

Why PBL?

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which it is believed that students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. PBL often relies on students learning through inquiry, collaboration, and design thinking in order to achieve deeper understanding of complex topics and to practice the soft skills (project management, creativity, critical thinking, communication, etc.) that many industries value now. PBL also relies on shifting from a centralized power dynamic where the teacher controls the learning environment to a shared power structure that allows students to make choices about their own learning. Using PBL as a pedagogy in Physical Education (PE) might enhance learning for all students, but more importantly it accounts for the students at the margins who typically are disengaged by the traditional focus on team sports. Well-designed PBL in PE should allow students to see physical activity as an opportunity for their own personal expression and with thoughtful execution it can grow their love for physical activity beyond the walls of the gym.

“Affective PE is Effective PE.” 

PE that accounts for student interests and feelings allows students to deepen their relationship and desire for physical activity. In order to facilitate the deep connections that young people need in order to seek physical activity as a normal and natural part of their life, our pedagogies must honor their personal lens for physical activity in the gymnasium. The Meaningful PE Framework provides a lens through which we can design for more affective learning in PE. The framework suggests that these eight guiding principles lead to more student motivation around physical activity: meaning making, meaningful experiences, fun, social interaction, challenge and competition, motor competence, personal relevance, and delight. This framework provides a lens through which many curricula and pedagogy can be used. PBL is a deeper learning pedagogy that supports these eight guiding principles and the development of key success skills necessary for meaningful work in life. 

PE for all Students

Embracing PBL in PE might get us closer to more meaningful experiences for students by creating more equitable social dynamics, valuing creativity over physical achievement, and co-designing curriculum that reaches every learner. By high school, many students across the world have made decisions about how physical activity fits into their lives. Sadly, many students have decided that physical activity simply isn’t for them. It is time to stop and listen to these students. We must begin the process of disarming the traditional notion of what PE is and develop structures that account for our students interests, allow students to engage in physical activity from a creative and critical stance, trust students as collaborative partners in learning, and measure the affective learning happening when students are charged with making meaning in physical activity. 
To learn more about how PBL can be integrated in PE listen to this episode of the PBL Playbook from Magnify Learning.

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Jordan Manley, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of

Pair this blog post with the following:

How to Facilitate Deeper Connections to Physical Activity by Jordan Manley

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal

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