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February 21, 2021


Project-based learning improves student performance significantly according to breakthrough research

Innovative Teaching Strategy Offers Engaging, Real-world Experiences for Students that Could Prove Helpful after a Year of Learning Loss Due to Covid-19

Researchers, Educators and Students React to Rigorous PBL Studies

Quotes from Educators, Researchers, and Students

February 21, 2021


Five Characteristics of Project-Based Learning

Four newly released, peer-reviewed research studies show that rigorous project-based learning (PBL) has a strong, positive impact on student outcomes. Although the four PBL courses that the researchers studied cover different subjects and grades and vary in their approaches, they do share common characteristics.

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February 1, 2021


Core Practices for Project-Based Learning: A Guide for Teachers and Leaders

Publication Date: June, 2021
Publisher: Harvard Education Press

Leading effective Project-Based Learning classrooms is complex and challenging work. In Core Practices for Project Based Learning: A Guide for Teachers and Leaders, Pam Grossman, Zachary Herrmann, Sarah Kavanagh, and Christopher Pupik Dean identify and describe four primary goals of PBL teachers and the core teaching practices that support students in achieving those goals. Through vignettes and rich descriptions of teaching the authors illustrate how teachers can refine their practice to more effectively lead PBL classrooms that support deep disciplinary content learning, engage students in authentic work, support student collaboration, and build an iterative culture where students are always prototyping, reflecting, redesigning, editing, and trying again.

Compose Our World: Project-Based Learning for Secondary English Language Arts

Publication Date: January 8, 2021
Publisher: Teachers College Press

This book highlights project-based learning (PBL) as a powerful way to harness students’ interests and engage them in academically rigorous learning. The authors provide specific, research-informed curricular approaches and instructional guidance for classroom teachers, as well as an overview of the dimensions of PBL that are often overlooked in the broad expectations of inquiry-based teaching. Instead of “quick fix” lessons, Compose Our World explores how core dimensions of equitable teaching—such as social and emotional support, universal design for learning, and cultivating classroom community—function as the bedrock for student success in PBL contexts and beyond.

Science Education Through Multiple Literacies: Project-Based Learning in Elementary School

Publication Date: November, 2021
Publisher: Harvard Education Press

How can teachers transform their science teaching to support young children to enjoy science, see the wonders of the natural world, and learn challenging science ideas that form the foundation for making sense of scientific phenomena? Science Education Through Multiple Literacies: Project-Based Learning in Elementary School presents case studies of teachers coming to learn how to enact Multiple Literacies in Project-Based learning (ML-PBL) to engage elementary students in making sense of phenomena and solving meaningful problems. Paralleling what scientists do, ML-PBL represents the essence of doing science by engaging children and their teachers in investigating real-world questions, constructing models to make sense of phenomena, and using evidence to support claims.

January 25, 2021


2021 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Virtual Annual Meeting

Expanding Opportunities for Equity-Based Practice: A Collaborative Study of Implementation

Authors: Leema Berland, Alison Gould Boardman, Britte Haugan Cheng, Tiffany Lee Clark, Sarah Kavanagh, Rachel Kuck, Emily Miller, Ashley Potvin, Kristina Stamatis
Discussant: Caitlin Farrell
Division L: Educational Policies and Politics
Section 9: Policy Implementation and Going to Scale
Session Description: This collaboration comprises team members from three separate research endeavors, with a focus on understanding the implementation of educational innovations using a common strategy for equity-based instructional practices — rigorous project-based learning (PBL). Collaboratory participants have been gathering virtually over 1.5 years and using a shared framework to examine a critical challenge in design, implementation, and research around PBL. The first paper in this symposium frames the need for aggregating knowledge and describes strategies used in this particular collaboratory effort. This will be followed by three papers from each of the participating research projects. In this collaboratory, each project engaged in collective work to synthesize knowledge across the research projects and, importantly, to systematically compare and contrast findings as a means to develop meta-insights about the role of local context in PBL implementation. The three projects are varied in their focus: investigating individual teachers’ shifts in practices as they adopt a PBL science curriculum; understanding the conditions that enable teachers to sustain PBL in Language Arts; and examining how school leaders can best support PBL implementation. A discussant versed in methods and challenges of implementation research will provide comments on the value of the general approach, strategies used to facilitate knowledge building across teams, and the significance of the findings on implementation that have emerged from the teams’ efforts both individually and collectively.

Perspectives on the Role of Authenticity in Project-Based and Active Learning Humanities Classrooms

Authors: Alison Gould Boardman, Christopher Pupik Dean, Zachary Herrmann, Sarah Kavanash, David Kidd, Rachel Kuck, Chaebong Nam, Joseph Polman, Jesslyn Puolson, Kristina Stamatis, Gavin Tierney
Discussant: Jal Mehta
Division C: Learning and Instruction
Section 1b: Humanities, Social Sciences, Fine Arts
Session Description: This symposium brings together four papers from research teams studying project based learning (PBL) and active learning pedagogies in humanities classrooms. Each paper examines these pedagogies through the lens of authenticity, raising questions about the role and importance of this concept in curricular design and implementation. The first paper examines authenticity as a design principle for project-based learning curriculum. Two categories of PBL projects are explored: Simulation projects and real-world projects. The second paper presents findings from a study of the impact of a framework for instruction in civics classrooms. The findings indicate that a significant predictor of civic development were levels of authentic student agency cultivated through the framework. The third paper reports findings from a study focused on the implementation of a 9th grade English language arts curriculum that was explicitly based on a three-part framework for authenticity. The results show that teachers using the curriculum achieved higher levels of authentic engagement than a comparison group. Students of teachers using the curriculum felt they were given significantly more choice, found what they learned useful in real life, and felt that their work was connected to their personal interests. The final paper describes the operationalization of authenticity in the curricula and student work of humanities teachers participating in a year-long professional development program focused on project-based teaching. The results illustrate specific strategies these teachers used to make their projects more authentic, but also illustrate how this authenticity did not always translate to the work students produced.

Teacher change of practice across contexts: Case studies of large scale project-based science curriculum enactment

Authors: Emily Miller, Kayla Bartz lead, with posters by Emily Miller, Miranda Fitzgerald, Selin Akgun, Tingting Li, Katy Easley, Annemarie Palincsar, Cory Miller, Joe Krajcik
Division B: Curriculum Studies
Section 5: The Places and Praxis of Curriculum
Session Description: This session uses case studies to illustrate the day-to-day changes in classroom practices that created the positive results of a large scale efficacy study (Authors, in press). The research project spanned three universities, two states, and involved hundreds of elementary classrooms and demonstrated that students develop science knowledge and social emotional learning with the intervention of project-based learning curriculum and professional learning. However, large scale research obfuscates the teacher and classroom shifts that engender this result. The case studies provide insights from diverse districts to explore (a) challenges that schools face during enactment, (b) day-to-day shifts in classrooms and, (c) teachers’ journeys to adjust the curriculum to align with other initiatives.

Towards an Ecological View of Scientific Sensemaking: Teacher Moves that Disrupt Deficit Perspectives of MLLs

Authors: Emily Miller & Emily Reigh,
Division B: Curriculum Studies
Section 5: The Places and Praxis of Curriculum
Session Description: Multilingual learners (MLLs) are often positioned as lacking the linguistic resources needed to engage in rigorous forms of learning, such as sensemaking discussions in science. Although research has shown that the epistemic and linguistic resources of students from non-dominant backgrounds can be valuable resources for engagement in scientific practices, the field lacks practical resources for supporting these students. In this study, we use van Lier’s ecological model to conceptualize how teacher moves can identify and leverage language resources present in the classroom environment. Through analyzing a corpus of classroom observational data, we identify and illustrate teacher moves that supported the classroom community in positioning MLLs as competent sensemakers. Implications are drawn for classroom practice and teacher professional learning.

Enacting PBL Science Instruction the Context of Physical Distancing: Supporting Humanizing Relationships

Authors: Emily Miller, Leema Berland, Joe Krajcik
Division C: Learning and Instruction
Section 1d: Science.
Session Description: This case study follows two elementary science teachers in the same urban school district during the first four weeks of their shift to virtual learning during the safer at home policy. Each teacher leveraged principles of Project-based learning to support learning. Nine hours of recorded data and six hours of interviews were coded for themes related to teachers’ individual appropriation of PBL principles and their support for fostering humanizing relationships. Shifts underscore critical aspects of science learning that need to be cultivated in any environment: Equity through authentic connections to community, and teacher motivation to embrace principles that personally resonate.

2021 International Society of the Learning Sciences Annual Meeting

Aggregating Learning Sciences Knowledge Through Collaboratories (Tutorial)

Organizers: Britte Haugan Cheng, Tiffany Lee Clark, Ann Edwards, Timothy Podkul
Tutorial Description: This half-day tutorial will share insights about collaboratories and their value as an innovative structure to support learning sciences challenges. Collaboratories foster a better understanding of how implementation contexts and designs of tools and practices interact, how to share this design knowledge, how to aggregate insights from researcher and practitioner partnerships, and how to use these insights to support scaling of tools and practices.

2021 National Association of Research in Science Teaching Conference

How teacher practices influence elementary students’ social emotional learning

Authors: Cory Miller, Tingting Li; Kayla Bartz, Joe Krajcik, Barbara Schneider
Session description: The purpose of this paper is to study the relationship between teaching practices and 3rd-grade students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) during science lessons in 49 classrooms (30 treatment and 19 control) for 1,162 students. Several analyses have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of our treatment—ML-PBL—teaching practices on students SEL. The first is a confirmatory factor analysis of our SEL constructs (Reflection, Ownership, and Collaboration) between the two conditions, the second shows the main effect of differences in SEL between them, and the third explores the mechanisms between SEL and teacher instructional practices.

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