Planning for Public Products—a Piece of Cake!

From PBL 101 training, we learn that student teams answer the driving question or solve the problem through their public product. The public product is used to display student learning, which is presented to an audience who will provide feedback for improvement with the product and/or the accuracy of the learning.

Presenting student learning through a public display is an important aspect to project-based learning because it adds to the authenticity of the learning experience. For example, student teams create interactive timelines of the history of their community using and Two local historians, both members of the Historical Society, view the timelines, provide feedback on the accuracy of the history, and choose one interactive timeline to feature on the Historical Society’s web site. Making student-learning public in such a way provides credence to the work students are doing. It is not just another presentation students make to their classmates and teacher. In this case, it is a product critiqued by professionals who are using student work in a real way.

Piece of cake, right? Not always, I hear from teachers during coaching sessions the frustration of making products public for a variety of challenging reasons, some of which include:

  • Locating an authentic audience
  • Overcoming apprehension and fear of presenting
  • Finding the time to schedule and host presentations

Let’s first tackle the common misconception of the design element Public Product: students must formally present their product to a live audience. There are other options to display student learning publically while conquering the challenges listed above.

One option is to make the product public to a digital audience. Student teams can create a product—a flow chart, an infographic, or a web site—and send the link or the product to the audience. Displaying learning digitally and using a digital audience will save time and overcome apprehension of presenting to a live audience. Ideas for an authentic audience might include experts from your local community—government officials, college professors, business owners, etc. Of course, it depends on your content area and the feedback you want students to receive. If you live in a rural area with limited resources, consider using Nepris is a free, web-based resource that connects teachers with experts. You might even create a public feedback forum using Google Groups, Google Hangouts,,,, or An OCM BOCES resource includes contact information from local professionals who have attended our annual Making Connections Event; click on the link to find the 2014 and the 2015 directories.

Another option for making student-learning public might be recording student presentations and/or sending products via email for feedback. For example, students revised the school menu to include meals that are healthy and appealing to adolescents while meeting school lunch regulations. Each team plans for one healthy meal for a day of the week. Students present their daily meal plan and explain how the meal meets the daily dietary guidelines while meeting school lunch regulations. The teacher records the presentation and sends the video along with the weekly meal plan for feedback from the school dietitian. Recording students privately is particularly helpful when working with students with special needs or student teams who have experienced setbacks due to attendance or deadline issues.

Yet another option is to schedule team-led conferences with authentic audience members. A team-led conference requires student teams to present their learning to an authentic audience in a 10- or 15-minute block of time, which can be completed either face-to-face or virtually using or Google Hangouts. While one team is presenting, other teams might be preparing to present or engaging in the next unit of instruction in another location.

Please use the table below to help you visualize the Public Product for your next PBL experience.

Product Audience Public Display Feedback Focus
Proposal for a Skate Park


Local Officials and Business Owners Proposals will be sent electronically to public audience members Audience members will provide feedback on the feasibility and thoroughness of the proposal
Blueprint Advisory Board Blueprints will be sent electronically to Advisory Board members Advisory Board members will provide feedback on the accuracy of mathematical concepts and reasoning
Historical Photo Essay History College Instructors Photo essays were posted to a class web site Audience will provide feedback on the accuracy of the content and impact and sequencing of photos
Digital Story Layer 1: Younger Students

Layer 2: School Librarian

Students will request younger students to read their digital story as well as the School Librarian Students will provide information on their learning from the story while the School Librarian will provide feedback on story elements and structure
Artwork Layer 1: School Community

Layer 2: Local Artists

Artwork will be displayed in the school commons area

(another option is to post the artwork to a site like or to create a web site and send the link to local artists)

School community members will provide feedback on what they like about the artwork while local artists will rate student work using a rubric
Science Documentary about Meteorological Phenomena Layer 1: Meteorologist Professor and Graduate Students

Layer 2: Digital Media Specialist

Documentaries will be posted to Youtube in a private channel Meteorologists will provide feedback on the scientific accuracy of the content while the Digital Media Special provides feedback on the quality of the documentary
Walking Tour of Community Common Council Members Links will be sent to Common Council Members ( and Audience will provide feedback on sites chosen, accuracy of logistical information for sites, and quality of the tour

Although the Public Product element of a PBL experience can be challenging it does not have to be daunting or dreadful—it can be a “piece of cake”—with some pre-planning that will make the learning experience one that is memorable and meaningful.

Pawlewicz_Denise_WEBDenise Pawlewicz
PBL/Literacy Trainer & Coach

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