From Dr. Kerry specials
A recent case study carried out by my colleagues and me at MIDA learning technologies compared elementary school classes that piloted Project-based learning (PBL) against classes that continued to use the traditional district curriculum. Our findings were consistent with a wide range of existing research that supports the use of project-based learning to improve student outcomes.
Existing research on project-based learning
To better understand the results of the study, we searched and reported on the existing literature on project-based learning. Research consistently showed that students studying PBL showed that:
- improved student performance
- increased student motivation and engagement
- improved interaction between teachers and students
- Increased development of 4 C of 21st Century Learning: Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.
A special landmark Study of project-based learning outcomes Led by SRI International and with support from NSF, 3,000 middle school students and 100 teachers were screened in a large, diverse urban school setting. Researchers on this study reported three key findings.
- Students on the project-based curriculum outperformed students in the traditional setting on post-class ratings.
- The project-based approach ranked scoring among underrepresented populations as well as scoring between men and women.
- Teachers were more likely to engage students as teacher-student interactions increased significantly over time.
Is Project Based Learning Effective?
PBL is an effective, hands-on learning model that can be used to assess the application of cross-curricular knowledge by students to solving real-world problems. Studies show that PBL increases student engagement and performance while promoting the development of 21st century skills, including creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.
Our Research: How does PBL affect student performance in science and math?
The study we conducted was specifically studied Common core mathematical practice 1:: Understand problems and persist in solving them. We measured student performance using a rubric designed to assess discrete features related to the problem-solving process. We looked at the transfer of problem-solving skills in math even though the project-based classes were in science classes.
In the quantitative analysis of post-test data for the control and test group in 2nd and 5th The results showed significant differences in the success after the test between the control group and the experimental group.
In both classes, the project-based learning curriculum is from Defined learning, a web-based supplementary PBL curriculum resource, outperformed the control group.
In addition, second grade women outperformed men when compared between groups and within the group. The fifth grade women scored slightly higher than the men, but this difference was not considered significant.
As part of the study design, our team conducted focus groups and interviews at the beginning of the school year, at mid-term and just before the end of the school year. The interviews indicated an upward growth pattern in teachers’ abilities to employ and effectively use project-based learning. Year-end results show a pattern of professional growth as teachers become familiar with creating a project-based learning environment.
The science behind project-based learning
The final analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data was in line with the growing literature that project-based learning is an excellent teaching strategy.
We were particularly affected by a question that was asked after our presentation.
“If the results are consistently good, why aren’t more schools and teachers adopting this teaching strategy?”
The answer is certainly complex, but two obstacles stand out:
- Teachers need to participate in meaningful professional development in order to move from traditional teaching techniques to those used in a project-based classroom. It’s a real departure from a traditional, instructor-led environment, and requires both training and practice.
- Second, it is difficult to design project-based learning. Creating the project-based scenario and its associated scenario takes a long time Performance tasks to enable the students to deal with the content through differentiated performance channels.
When we worked with the school district at the center of the study, we found that resources like defined learning remove one major barrier. Design projects to support this teaching / learning strategy. Defined learning offers an extensive catalog of ready-made projects and associated performance tasks. Resources like defined learning coupled with effective professional development are a recipe for success in implementing a teaching strategy to achieve effective results with students.
Download the research and see for yourself
Dr. Kerry specials is the Chief Academic Officer of MIDA Learning Technology, LLC, a Pennsylvania-based educational consulting company. She is also an Associate Professor at Wilkes University and is 5 years oldth-graduate teacher in the Dallas School District, Dallas, PA. Dr. Speziale was also an elementary math coordinator. She has historically been recognized as PA Elementary Math Teacher of the Year and also received the PASCD Young Educator of the Year award.
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