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Project-Based Learning Raises Student Achievement and Test Scores

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Project-based learning as a teaching strategy can be an effective way to increase student communication and collaboration skills. This type of learning, where students work together to solve a real-world problem, also prepares students for life outside the classroom.

That's because how we work is changing. By 2020, about four in ten, or about 91 million Americans, will be engaged in quick "gigs" and project-based work, according to Buckeye Institute for Education.

Let's take a look at some research supporting project based learning.

  • A multi-year study of students taking AP United States Government and Politics (APGOV) and AP Environmental Sciences (APES) showed students did better on AP tests when engaging in project-based learning. APGOV students engaged in PBL in high-achieving schools "had a 30 percent higher pass rate on the APGOV exam than non-PBL students in comparable schools." The study was conducted from 2008-2013 and was led by the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
  • That same study showed that APES students in poverty-impacted schools "had a 19 percent higher pass rate than non-PBL students in comparable schools matched nationally."
  • Students at a Connecticut high school enrolled in a PBL program had higher grade point averages than their traditionally taught peers. Students in Manchester High School West's STEAM Ahead program found freshman in the program had a mean GPA of 2.57, while their peers had a mean GPA of 1.76. Among sophomores, STEAM Ahead students had a mean GPA of 2.31, while sophomores in traditional classes had a mean GPA of 1.58. The 2017 study was conducted by Researchers at the University of New Hampshire.
  • Second-grade students living in poverty increased their literacy and social studies skills through project-based learning, researchers at the University of Michigan found. The study compared students at 20 high-poverty elementary schools. It showed "students whose teachers used the project-based learning curriculum made gains that were 63 percent higher than their peers in the control group in social studies and 23 percent higher in informational reading."

Lathram, Bonnie; Lenz, Bob and Vander Ark, Tom. "Preparing Students for a Project Based World." GettingSmart.com. August 2016. Web. http://www.gettingsmart.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Preparing-Students-for-a-ProjectBasedWorld-FINAL.pdf

Edutopia Team. "Knowledge in Action Research: Results to Date." Edutopia. Oct. 17, 2013. Web. https://www.edutopia.org/knowledge-in-action-PBL-research-results

Feely, Paul. "Study shows Manchester STEAM Ahead program yields higher GPAs." New Hampshire Union Leader. June 20, 2017. Web. http://www.unionleader.com/education/Study-shows-Manchester-STEAM-Ahead-program-yields-higher-GPAs-06212017

Zubrzycki, Jackie. "Project-Based Learning's Next Project: Understanding When It Works." Education Works. June 21. Web. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2017/06/project-based_learning_research.html

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