Project-based learning

A working paper from MDRC builds on and updates a literature review of project-based learning (PBL) published in 2000. Focused primarily on articles and studies that have emerged in the last 17 years, the working paper discusses the principles of PBL, how PBL has been used in K–12 (Year 1–13) settings, the challenges teachers face in implementing it, how school and local factors influence its implementation and what is known about its effectiveness in improving learning outcomes.

The report suggests that the evidence for PBL’s effectiveness in improving pupil outcomes is “promising, but not proven”.  The biggest challenge to evaluating the effectiveness of PBL, the researchers suggest, is a lack of consensus about the design of PBL and how it fits in with other teaching methods. Some studies have found positive effects associated with the use of PBL. However, without a clear vision of what a PBL approach should look like, it is difficult for teachers and schools to assess the quality of their own implementation and know how to improve their approach. They also suggest that PBL implementation is particularly challenging because it changes pupil–teacher interactions and requires a shift from teacher-directed to pupil-directed inquiry and requires non-traditional methods of assessment.

The paper concludes with recommendations for advancing the PBL research literature in ways that will improve PBL knowledge and practice.

Source: Project-Based Learning: a literature review (October 2017), A MDRC Working Paper

Behaviour programme shows promise

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney in Australia have published new research detailing a study of Positive Behavior for Learning (PBL), a schoolwide systemic approach to promoting both positive behaviours and student learning. PBL aims to establish strong systems that involve all staff and pupils, and to implement evidence-based practices that support behaviour and learning.

The participants in this study were 2,129 pupils from 18 schools in Australia. A total of 827 boys and 888 girls from four primary and eight secondary schools implementing PBL (the experimental group) were compared with 188 boys and 226 girls from two primary and four secondary schools (the control group).

Using a structural equation modelling technique to test group differences, the authors found that the pupils in schools that had implemented PBL for over nine months had higher scores in both self-reported behavioural and adaptive motivational factors. Specifically, they found higher scores in:

  • Behavioural management input (the pupils’ perceptions of behaviour interventions);
  • Positive behaviours (following school rules);
  • Knowledge about behaviours (schools’ expectations);
  • Effort goal orientation (motivation); and
  • The value of schooling.

They conclude that PBL may benefit all pupils, but more work may be needed for boys.

Source: Seeshing Yeung A, Barker K, Tracey D, and Mooney M, School-wide Positive Behavior for Learning: Effects of Dual Focus on Boys’ and Girls’ Behavior and Motivation for Learning, International Journal of Educational Research 62, 1–10.