Professional Development Books for Project Based Learning


I’m a huge advocate of project-based learning, but I know it comes with its challenges. Even though I’ve been doing PBL in my classroom for over 6 years now, I continue to read every new book that comes out about PBL methods, so that I can address those challenges with the most current research-based information. Here are my favorite teaching books for project based learning!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You don’t have to purchase them through my links, but if you do, it’s much appreciated! 

My Favorite PBL Teaching Books

Edited to add: I wrote a book! It seemed like there was a definite hole in the PBL book offerings – actual project ideas. If you teach grades 3-5, check out my book, Project Based Learning Made Simple!

Screenshot of the cover of the book Project-Based Learning Made Simple

For Primary Teachers

Developing Natural Curiosity Through Project-Based Learning by Dayna Laur and Jill Ackers

What I Love About It: This is actually the most recent book I’ve read about PBL, and from the photo above you can see that I’ve written down a lot of great ideas! I’m switching from upper elementary to the primary grades next year, and I needed this book to help me shift my thinking to the specific needs of K-3 students. This book goes into detail about how to incorporate literacy instruction into PBL. It even includes daily schedules and explicit examples. There are so many great ideas in this book, including technology tools, learner centered questions, and how to support students through the stages of finding a solution. Bloom’s Taxonomy is also referenced throughout the book. This book has more explicit information to use in the classroom than any other book I’ve read on PBL.

This book was recommended to me in the project-based learning Facebook group. The members in there are amazing and we would love for you to join us!

Screenshot of the cover of the book Developing Natural Curiosity Through Project-Based Learning

For Beginners

Hacking Project-Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy

What I Love About It: This is also a recent read and I highly recommend it to people who are totally new to PBL. It lays everything out in a simple, easy to understand way. The focus in this book is how to start PBL in your classroom, as well as how to encourage students to properly complete in-depth inquiry. As a seasoned PBL teacher, it was more of a refresher for me. When people ask me which book to start with, this is the one I recommend. It doesn’t overwhelm you with complex information, it gets right into the meat of how to start and what PBL entails. I have read many, many books on PBL, and this is by far the easiest to read and understand. It will be a part of my new-teacher bucket in the future!

Screenshot of the cover of the book Hacking Project-Based Learning

Related Resources

For Middle & High School teachers

Project-Based Learning Across The Disciplines by Acacia Warren

What I Love About It: This book focuses on rigor, technology, real-world application, and 21st century skills. I read this book last year when I was teaching grades 4-6 ELA (high achievers) and I found it to be a valuable resource for those grade levels, but I definitely think it would benefit middle and high school teachers the most. The topic list included is AMAZING. The book does a fantastic job of walking you through choosing a topic and setting up a PBL using the +1 framework, which was totally new to me, but aligns well with what I already do with project-based learning. If you’re looking for topic ideas and help creating PBL that is centered on 21st century skills, definitely read this book!

Screenshot of the cover of the book Project-Based Learning Across the Disciplines

For Gifted Teachers

Project-Based Learning For Gifted Students by Todd Stanley

What I Love About It: When I taught as part of an achievement program, I also had a handful of gifted students, which led me to read this book. What I like about it is it really goes into depth about the structure of PBL and how to best utilize it for gifted students. I’ve always taken a more hands-off approach when using PBL with my gifted kids, and this book aligns with that. It focuses on independent inquiry, journaling, and time management. It also discusses motivating underachieving gifted kids, which is a large problem for those kids that are not a part of regular gifted instruction and don’t receive differentiation in their regular classroom. I would recommend this book for any classroom teacher designing PBL for a handful of gifted students, or for a gifted pullout teacher.

Screenshot of the cover of the book Project-Based Learning for Gifted Students

Ready For The Next Step?

My self-paced, online course is a great companion to the reading you’re planning to do on project-based learning. The video trainings walk you through each part of the planning and implementing process, and the included organizers help you put everything into place. When you register for this course, you’ll join a dynamic group of teachers that are working closely with me to implement high quality PBL in their classrooms. Click here for more information on this course.


April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


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