Core Practices for Project-Based Teaching


With an eye toward the critical role of instructional quality and teacher development in fostering significant and meaningful student learning, educators and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education developed and studied an evidence-based project-based teaching framework. This framework was then employed to create a teacher development program to support high-quality project-based learning implementation. This study is led by Drs. Pamela Grossman, Christopher Pupik Dean, Sarah Schneider Kavanagh, and Zachary Herrmann.

Principal Investigator:

Drs. Pamela Grossman, Christopher Pupik Dean, Sarah Schneider Kavanagh, and Zachary Herrmann

Year of Funding:



Core Practices for Project-Based Teaching Framework and Teacher Development Program

Project-based learning (PBL) is being adopted in an increasing number of schools and classrooms and has been linked to positive learning outcomes for students. While significant efforts have focused on building and researching curriculum materials for project-based learning, very little work has focused on how to prepare teachers to enact these curricula. In light of the growing body of evidence illustrating the critical role that teaching quality plays in fostering significant and meaningful student learning, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education team will build and research a project-based learning teaching framework and a new model of teacher development to support teachers engaged in project-based learning efforts. This program will focus on cultivating teachers’ capacity to enact the core practices of project-based teaching.

The identification and rich description of the core teaching practices that are central to supporting student learning in project-based classrooms, and the construction of teacher development programs that support high quality project-based teachers in these practices, is important to improving student outcomes at scale. Additionally, improving project-based instruction through work on core practices has significant potential to address issues of equity and social justice in education. Researchers and practitioners focused on both project-based learning and core practices articulate a goal of increasing access to high-quality educational experiences for a wider array of students. Preparing teachers to enact core practices will increase their effectiveness in cultivating the deep disciplinary learning and critical-thinking skills that students require to succeed, both as future members of the workforce and as active and critical citizens in a democracy.

In addition to building the research base for project-based learning, what is learned in this project has the potential to influence both pre-service and in-service project-based learning teacher development programs. This research will not only contribute to the understanding of the particular pedagogies of teacher education that support the development of these practices, but will offer a model of how universities and school-based partners can collaborate to develop teacher development programs that bring research and school-based knowledge together to address the specific needs of a school community.


Related Publications

Preparing Teachers for Project-Based Teaching

Grossman, P., Dean, C. G. P., Kavanagh, S. S., & Herrmann, Z. (2019). Preparing teachers for project-based teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 100(7), 43–48.

If the movement toward more project-based learning is to be successful, it’s essential to understand what teachers need to do to be effective in a project-based classroom. Pam Grossman, Christopher G. Pupik Dean, Sarah Schneider Kavanagh, and Zachary Herrmann surveyed experts and teachers and viewed classroom videos to identify a set of core practices for project-based teaching. Effective project-based educators promote subject-area learning; create relevant experiences; cultivate a classroom culture of production, feedback, reflection, and revision; and build student agency in learning communities.