Be inspired by project-based learning! 3 great PBL case studies

The study was conducted by researchers from Michigan State, the University of Michigan, Western Washington and Lehigh University. Forty-eight second-grade teachers participated in the controlled trial where one group was asked to facilitate four different projects covering all of their district’s social studies standards and most of the literacy standards. Members of the comparison group were asked to lead the lessons as they normally did in the past, but with the expectation of teaching a set number of lessons over the duration of the study.

The results showed that the experimental group, which implemented the project-based strategies, achieved higher growth in the areas of social studies and informational reading, and those who used the task-based learning projects at a higher level of consistency showed better results with motivation, reading, and writing.

“Student outcomes from high-quality project-based learning”

This to study is written by Dr. Carla Evans of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. It involved one teacher and two sections of high school chemistry classes with 40 students in total. The teacher received extensive training in Gold Standard PBL which she quickly implemented and faithfully adhered to the design elements when planning her project for her students. Additionally, while teaching and mentoring during the project, she continued to embed Gold Standard teaching practices.

At the end of the unit, results were compiled from interviews, student focus groups, outcome data, and surveys. Most students (62%) achieved a proficiency score or higher on the culminating task at the end of the unit. This task involved applying the unit’s newly acquired knowledge to a problem-solving scenario. Additionally, in the Autonomy domains, 83% of students demonstrated this skill at a proficient or higher level, and 71% achieved these same levels in the Collaboration domain. These results were based on teacher observations and student reflections during the project.

the hunger games Project

Another interesting aspect of project-based learning is the possibility for teachers to collaborate on an interdisciplinary level. This is the case of Mary Mobley and Michael Chambers who teach high school English and social studies respectively in Manor, Texas. They developed a unit based on The hunger Games series of novels that revolves around a fictional post-war, dystopian society. The different standards covered by the unity included:

Analyze and compare moral dilemmas in the literature

The global economic depression and the response of governments to it

The rise of totalitarianism

Writing personal response essays

Students participated in collaborative activities that involved research and critical thinking, and the culminating task was a presentation to peers, teachers, and parents. Both Mobley and Chambers reported favorable outcomes for students who also played a role in establishing unit goals and a list of “needs to know” to guide them.

So, as you can see, project-based learning requires a nominal amount of planning and sticking to practices. Nonetheless, this type of education paves the way for the future where students take a more active role in their learning while acquiring skills that will prepare them well for post-secondary education and beyond.


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