“I told my faculty members when they’re applying for summer grants for PD: only research-based practices will get priority funding for grants; the rest of the applications go to the bottom of the pile.”
“When speaking to one group of the faculty, be sure to provide research-based evidence for Project-Based learning; some of these teachers are very particular about that.”
“As a caveat I would not accept any data found from a nonacademic non-peer reviewed resource as reason for change or implementing new strategies.”
I’ve encountered each of these messages separately in the past few weeks, and I value them all as good reminders for me to try harder to ground my educational positions and advocacy with evidence from quality research, especially from academic peer-reviewed journal published research.
So what about Project-Based Learning? PBL is a practice I advocate for frequently here at 21k12, and I do based largely on my own 2008 research, in which I spent five days shadowing students at PBL immersive schools, including High Tech High in San Diego and New Technology High School in Sacramento, and spent about 15 days doing the same at more traditional high schools, and concluded that the PBL schools were far superior in the way they engaged, challenged, and enriched the students and their learning. It was a bit of an overwhelming recognition, the degree of difference and the degree of superiority I observed. I’ve written about this at length here.
But, in all fairness, this “research” hasn’t been published anywhere other than on the blog, and it hasn’t been peer-reviewed in by academic researchers.
But there is very good peer-reviewed journal published research available on PBL; let’s review.
Over at Buck Institute for Education they highlight the meta-analysis studies published in the 2008 Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 3(1), 4-11.
In the journal’s introductory article which I’ve embedded below, by Jason Ravitz, Ph.D. until recently the Research Director for Buck Institute for Education, the research is summarized. (Note: I assisted Jason with editing this piece, for which I’m recognized in the acknowledgements).
The available evidence is promising. Compared to alternative teaching methods, PBL holds its own on standardized tests of concept knowledge and excels on other kinds of outcomes. Walker and Leary’s meta-analysis combined 201 outcomes reported across 82 different studies. They focused on the average effect size of differences in studies comparing students who received a PBL-based curriculum to those who did not. (more…)