- Researchers from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University found evidence to support their theory that project-based learning can have a positive impact on student performance and achievement compared to conventional instruction in high-poverty, low-performing districts.
- University of Michigan Professor Neil K. Duke and Michigan State University Professor Anne-Lise Halvorsen wrote in Edutopia that gains in social studies were 63% higher for the low-income PBL student group than the low-income control group, though not statistically significant for informational writing.
- Gaps in performance narrowed for students from higher income school districts, the research found. Analysts intend to continue trying to understand the specific reasons and circumstances in which PBL can be better utilized to raise achievement.
There is additional research to indicate that PBL’s benefits extended beyond assisting students from low-income families, with a study from last year finding that students in PBL classrooms outperformed peers in a control classroom by 49% in second grade and to a similar extent in fifth grade. As there are increased calls from some education advocates as well as from state legislatures to fund and support more competency-based education throughout K-12, PBL can help introduce practical concepts and skills for students as young as preschool. Educators utilizing science simulations as a type of PBL in a California high school found that the lessons became fun for students, provoking higher levels of engagement.
The Every Student Succeeds Act will emphasize more use of PBL in K-12 classrooms, with many supporters saying it is a solid step towards enhancing the chances of college enrollment for students. Some have described the increase in interest and use of PBL to be slow in coming to classrooms, with CrowdSchool co-founder Peter Glenn remarking that PBL is currently too “do-it-yourself,” and is difficult to fit into traditional curriculum. However, as with any new rollout, proper professional development and training around the new strategies — as well as seeking teacher input on the front end — can foster a successful model for PBL instruction.