Innovation by Design: Project-Based Learning Program

Innovation by Design: Project-Based Learning program

CELT has created the Innovation by Design: Project-Based Learning program as part of Iowa State University’s initiative to promote project-based learning and innovative problem-solving across campus. This year-long, eight-session workshop will offer tips and training in the development and implementation of this unique pedagogical model.

Project-based learning (PBL) is a high-impact educational practice that explores creative solutions to real-world problems through coursework. PBL is useful for early education, capstone courses, or other courses looking to connect problem-solving to disciplinary topics. Students learn through progressive and engaging tactics as they work through a multi-stage process of discovery, ideation, and implementation. This approach aligns well with university-wide initiatives in social entrepreneurialism and innovation and supports our foundational land-grant mission.

Innovation by Design’s central purpose is to assist instructors in their development or implementation of a PBL course, module, or project. The program will cover the essential elements of PBL courses and present strategies for navigating many of the unique aspects of the courses using various tactical approaches. The program is ideal for instructors that are relatively new to the PBL process and those looking for updates and reminders of best practices—all disciplines are welcome.

The program topics will include:

  • How can existing courses be converted to a PBL approach?
  • How to cultivate a creative-problem solving approach to stimulate entrepreneurial activities and innovation?
  • How to develop a fitting problem and manage the ensuing open-ended inquiries of PBL?
  • How to scaffold learning to improve student performance?
  • What are the tactical teaching methods used in PBL?


The inaugural Innovation by Design program will kick-off in September 2020. Once-a-month, 90-minute sessions will continue throughout the academic year culminating in a final project with a public presentation of the work at an event in late spring 2021. The sessions are tentatively scheduled on the third Thursday of each month at a time to be determined. Asynchronous participation is available through a blended learning experience.

Request for Applicants / Proposals

CELT is accepting proposals at this timeAny faculty member at Iowa State University or staff member with a teaching appointment may apply. Maximum 12 participants. Applicants apply by providing responses to the following:

  • Applicant contact information
  • Describe the proposed project or course that would be the focus aspects of your project-based learning. Why do you think a project-based learning approach would be beneficial?
  • How do you imagine you’d benefit from this experience?
  • How will your students benefit from this experience?

Please submit the responses via email to Rob Whitehead ( with the subject line: Innovation by Design: PBL workshop.


Applications will be available on June 7 and due on August 1, 2020. Applicants will be notified by August 15 if selected to participate.

People meeting at a table - some with laptop or smart device

Project-Based Learning

Students discover, develop, test, and present their work through various stages of activity—they learn by doing.

People meeting at a table - some with laptop or smart device

Design Thinking

A specialized approach to course design, activities, and evaluations.