Research shows PBL's quantitative and qualitative benefits

Dive Brief:

  • A new report from MIDA Learning Technologies studied project-based learning in second- and fifth-grade classrooms during the 2015-16 school year, when one group of teachers incorporated PBL and the other did not.
  • Researchers, writing for eSchool News, say the students in the PBL classrooms outperformed their peers by 49% in second grade and to a similar extent in fifth grade, girls outperformed boys in the PBL setting, and students exposed to PBL improved their performance in other subjects as well.
  • Project-based learning asks teachers to facilitate learning rather than give students all the answers, which was difficult for both teachers and students in the study at first, but throughout the course of the year, students in the PBL classrooms were more engaged and understood concepts more deeply.

Dive Insight:

Project-based learning is being embraced by schools all over the country as a strategy to improve student engagement and give students an opportunity to practice a range of soft skills they will need in college and career. Improving verbal communication and collaboration skills, practicing ways to persevere through challenging tasks, and learning how to identify problems as well as solutions are all important skills that cannot easily be taught by asking students to complete worksheets.

Katherine Smith Elementary School in San Jose, CA, has identified project-based learning as a school improvement strategy. Student discipline issues have plummeted since the school redesign and staff morale is way up. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning has identified Katherine Smith as an exemplar school for its work preparing students for the modern world.

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