Skip to main content
Strengthening Rigor

Strengthening Rigor in STEM- PBL Elements

By December 11th, 2023No Comments

Another way to strengthen rigor in the classroom is through the use of PBL (Project Based Learning) elements.  PBL and STEM have a great deal in common and many believe that PBL is one of STEM’s predecessors.

Although PBL lacks some elements of STEM, it has a similar goal- to teach the whole student and to focus on STEM skills like the 4C’s (communication, collaboration, creativity, creative thinking).

Including PBL elements in your STEM units helps maintain rigor and keep students performing on a higher level by applying their knowledge.

An Essential Question

An essential question is the essence of what students will study.  It usually focuses on a real life problem or issue that needs to be solved. Constructing this question carefully is paramount as it will guide student problem-solving.  A well-defined question will be tight enough to identify a relevant problem to be solved but loose enough to allow students to explore and find their own solutions.

White Space

Essential questions usually provide some design requirements, but for the most part allow students to use their STEM skills to research and construct a viable solution to the problem.  Enough guidance is provided to lightly steer students, but students are expected and encouraged to drive their own learning.

21st century skills

STEM units stress 21st century skills and aim to groom students to mastering the 4C’s.  Twenty-first century skills teach content mastery and knowledge application of STEM.   They also encourage students to polish additional skills like team building and brainstorming.


Inquiry is probably the most difficult element to teach.  Too much guidance and all students are coming up with the same solution.  Too little guidance and students are lost.  When students conduct inquiry, essentially, they are playing the part of a detective by following the trail of where their research leads them.  It is the part of the skilled teacher (facilitator) to help guide students in their problem solving so that they don’t get too far off track.

Ensuring these components are present in your STEM units works toward building and maintaining rigor in the classroom.

Subscribe to Stay Connected!

  • Easy Data Collection for STEM- Bundle Pack

  • Mental Math STEM Games- Card Bundle

  • Brown Bag STEM Challenge II – Bundle Pack

  • STEM Skills Challenge- Bundle Pack