Project-Based Learning Boosts Student Achievement in AP Courses


Saavedra, A.R., Liu Y., Haderlein, S.K., Rapaport, A., Garland, M., Hoepfner, D., Morgan, K.L., Hu, A., & Lucas Education Research. (2021). Project-Based Learning Boosts Student Achievement in AP Courses. Lucas Education Research.

This brief examines the findings of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California examining a project-based approach to Advanced Placement courses. The randomized study found the proportion of students earning a credit-qualifying score on the AP test was 8 percentage points higher in the project-based version of the course, as compared to traditional instruction, after teachers had been teaching with the Knowledge in Action (KIA) program for a year. The gain was estimated to be 10-percentage points higher after teachers used the curriculum and related supports for two years.

The researchers examined the impact of project-based learning on AP U.S. Government and AP Environmental Science courses in five predominantly urban districts around the country. A higher proportion of the students were from low-income households than is typical of the AP test-taking community. That’s notable, as policymakers and educators are trying to get more unrepresented students enrolled in and passing AP courses.