Published Articles

This is a collection of articles on the work of our grantees that have been published in professional journals and magazines.

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MDRC+PBL Literature Review

The concept of project-based learning (PBL) has garnered wide support among a number of K-12 education policy advocates and funders. This working paper builds on and updates a seminal literature review of PBL published in 2000. Focused primarily on articles and studies that have emerged in the 17 years since then, the working paper discusses the principles that underlie PBL, how PBL has been used in K-12 settings, the challenges teachers have confronted in implementing it, how school and district factors influence its adoption, and what is known about its effectiveness in improving students’ learning outcomes.

March 2017

MDRC+PBL Literature Review

The concept of project-based learning (PBL) has garnered wide support among a number of K-12 education policy advocates and funders. This working paper builds on and updates a seminal literature review of PBL published in 2000. Focused primarily on articles and studies that have emerged in the 17 years since then, the working paper discusses the principles that underlie PBL, how PBL has been used in K-12 settings, the challenges teachers have confronted in implementing it, how school and district factors influence its adoption, and what is known about its effectiveness in improving students’ learning outcomes.

March 2017

Project Based Learning Virtual Instructional Coaching Networked Improvement Community

The VIC network developed a virtual instructional coaching model and refined it over time using tools and processes from improvement science. This report describes (1) high-leverage virtual instructional coaching practices that surfaced from coach-teacher interactions and (2) lessons learned about the use of improvement science for testing forms and processes developed for the virtual instructional coaching model.

Krumm, A., Boyce, J., D'Angelo, C., Podkul, T., Feng, M., Christiano, E., and Snow, E. (2016). Project Based Learning Virtual Instructional Coaching Networked Improvement Community. SRI Education.

Published: September 2016

Project Based Learning Virtual Instructional Coaching Networked Improvement Community

The VIC network developed a virtual instructional coaching model and refined it over time using tools and processes from improvement science. This report describes (1) high-leverage virtual instructional coaching practices that surfaced from coach-teacher interactions and (2) lessons learned about the use of improvement science for testing forms and processes developed for the virtual instructional coaching model.

Krumm, A., Boyce, J., D'Angelo, C., Podkul, T., Feng, M., Christiano, E., and Snow, E. (2016). Project Based Learning Virtual Instructional Coaching Networked Improvement Community. SRI Education.

Published: September 2016

Motivating Teaching, Sustaining Change in Practice

Miller, E.C., Severance, S., and Krajcik, J. (2021). Motivating Teaching, Sustaining Change in Practice: Design Principles for Teacher Learning in Project-Based Learning Contexts, Journal of Science Teacher Education, 32:7, 757-779

In A Framework for K-12 Science Education, researchers call for teachers to make dramatic shifts in practice – and sustain in these changes in practice – so students can engage in rigorous and equitable three-dimensional science learning. Project-Based Learning (PBL) motivates students from diverse backgrounds to persist in learning. This project presents design features that bring together the assets of the Framework with PBL, and then tests these features to derive design principles that serve as commitments for designing for teacher change and student learning. Close ethnographic study of 10 teachers over 5 years in a design-based research study is triangulated with data collected across 41 districts in multiple states engaged in a PBL elementary science curriculum. The following design principles provide guidance for developing materials that support the depth necessary for promoting changes to teachers’ practice at scale: Adaptive, Responsive, and both Enjoyable and Intellectually Satisfying.

Published: 24 September 2021

Motivating Teaching, Sustaining Change in Practice

Miller, E.C., Severance, S., and Krajcik, J. (2021). Motivating Teaching, Sustaining Change in Practice: Design Principles for Teacher Learning in Project-Based Learning Contexts, Journal of Science Teacher Education, 32:7, 757-779

In A Framework for K-12 Science Education, researchers call for teachers to make dramatic shifts in practice – and sustain in these changes in practice – so students can engage in rigorous and equitable three-dimensional science learning. Project-Based Learning (PBL) motivates students from diverse backgrounds to persist in learning. This project presents design features that bring together the assets of the Framework with PBL, and then tests these features to derive design principles that serve as commitments for designing for teacher change and student learning. Close ethnographic study of 10 teachers over 5 years in a design-based research study is triangulated with data collected across 41 districts in multiple states engaged in a PBL elementary science curriculum. The following design principles provide guidance for developing materials that support the depth necessary for promoting changes to teachers’ practice at scale: Adaptive, Responsive, and both Enjoyable and Intellectually Satisfying.

Published: 24 September 2021

Knowledge in Action Efficacy Study Over Two Years

Saavedra, A.R., Liu Y., Haderlein, S.K., Rapaport, A., Garland, M., Hoepfner, D., Morgan, K.L., & Hu, A. (February 2021). Knowledge in Action Efficacy Study Over Two Years. USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Knowledge in Action is a project-based learning approach to Advanced Placement. Developers designed KIA intervention—comprised of curriculum, instructional materials, and robust professional development supports for teachers—to bolster students’ deeper understanding of content and skills. A randomized controlled trial efficacy evaluation of the Knowledge in Action intervention was conducted in 2016-17 with a follow-up study of RCT schools in 2017-18. This report describes the study motivation, context, research methods, results, and implications.

22 February 2021

Knowledge in Action Efficacy Study Over Two Years

Saavedra, A.R., Liu Y., Haderlein, S.K., Rapaport, A., Garland, M., Hoepfner, D., Morgan, K.L., & Hu, A. (February 2021). Knowledge in Action Efficacy Study Over Two Years. USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Knowledge in Action is a project-based learning approach to Advanced Placement. Developers designed KIA intervention—comprised of curriculum, instructional materials, and robust professional development supports for teachers—to bolster students’ deeper understanding of content and skills. A randomized controlled trial efficacy evaluation of the Knowledge in Action intervention was conducted in 2016-17 with a follow-up study of RCT schools in 2017-18. This report describes the study motivation, context, research methods, results, and implications.

22 February 2021

Putting PjBL to the Test: The Impact of Project-Based Learning on Second Graders’ Social Studies and Literacy Learning and Motivation in Low-Ses School Settings.

Duke, N. K., Halvorsen, A., Strachan, S. L., Kim, J., & Konstantopoulos, S. (2020). American Educational Research Journal.

This article discusses how a cluster randomized controlled trial investigated the impact of project-based learning with professional development supports social studies and literacy achievement and motivation of second-grade students from low–socioeconomic status school districts.

Published: June 8 2020

Putting PjBL to the Test: The Impact of Project-Based Learning on Second Graders’ Social Studies and Literacy Learning and Motivation in Low-Ses School Settings.

Duke, N. K., Halvorsen, A., Strachan, S. L., Kim, J., & Konstantopoulos, S. (2020). American Educational Research Journal.

This article discusses how a cluster randomized controlled trial investigated the impact of project-based learning with professional development supports social studies and literacy achievement and motivation of second-grade students from low–socioeconomic status school districts.

Published: June 8 2020

Discourse Tools Amplify Students’ Ideas and Build Knowledge

Miller, E., & Brown, T. (2019). Discourse Tools Amplify Students' Ideas and Build Knowledge. Science and Children, 56(9), 76-79.

This article describes a lesson in which the teacher uses discourse tools from WIDA (https://wida.wisc.edu) to support second grade students in the language-rich practice of argumentation.

Published: July 2019

Discourse Tools Amplify Students’ Ideas and Build Knowledge

Miller, E., & Brown, T. (2019). Discourse Tools Amplify Students' Ideas and Build Knowledge. Science and Children, 56(9), 76-79.

This article describes a lesson in which the teacher uses discourse tools from WIDA (https://wida.wisc.edu) to support second grade students in the language-rich practice of argumentation.

Published: July 2019

Promoting Deep Learning Through Project-Based Learning: A Design Problem

Miller, E.C., Krajcik, J.S. Promoting deep learning through project-based learning: a design problem. Discip Interdscip Sci Educ Res 1, 7 (2019) doi:10.1186/s43031-019-0009-6

This paper presents a design solution that involves the bringing together of project-based learning with the theory of usable knowledge.

Published: 28 November 2019

Promoting Deep Learning Through Project-Based Learning: A Design Problem

Miller, E.C., Krajcik, J.S. Promoting deep learning through project-based learning: a design problem. Discip Interdscip Sci Educ Res 1, 7 (2019) doi:10.1186/s43031-019-0009-6

This paper presents a design solution that involves the bringing together of project-based learning with the theory of usable knowledge.

Published: 28 November 2019

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.

This article discusses how to prepare teachers for project-based teaching using core practices.

Published: April 2019

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.

This article discusses how to prepare teachers for project-based teaching using core practices.

Published: April 2019

Project-Based Learning in Primary-Grade Social Studies

Halvorsen, A.-L., Duke, N. K., Strachan, S. L. (2019). Project-Based Learning in Primary-Grade Social Studies. Social Education, 83(1), 58-62.

This journal article examines how project-based learning (PBL) impacts early elementary social studies education, specifically the ways in which PBL helped reduce the achievement gap and improve student engagement with the curriculum.

Published: January/February 2019

Project-Based Learning in Primary-Grade Social Studies

Halvorsen, A.-L., Duke, N. K., Strachan, S. L. (2019). Project-Based Learning in Primary-Grade Social Studies. Social Education, 83(1), 58-62.

This journal article examines how project-based learning (PBL) impacts early elementary social studies education, specifically the ways in which PBL helped reduce the achievement gap and improve student engagement with the curriculum.

Published: January/February 2019

(Re)Designing for Engagement an a Project-Based AP Environmental Science Course

Tierney, G., Goodell, A., Bobbitt Nolen, S., Lee, N., Whitfield, L. & Abbott, R.D. (2018): (Re)Designing for engagement in a project based AP environmental science course, The Journal of Experimental Education.

This paper describes a three-year, design-based research project to redesign a year-long, project-based advanced placement environmental science course to better support student engagement and the development of environmental citizen identities.

Published: 28 Dec 2018

(Re)Designing for Engagement an a Project-Based AP Environmental Science Course

Tierney, G., Goodell, A., Bobbitt Nolen, S., Lee, N., Whitfield, L. & Abbott, R.D. (2018): (Re)Designing for engagement in a project based AP environmental science course, The Journal of Experimental Education.

This paper describes a three-year, design-based research project to redesign a year-long, project-based advanced placement environmental science course to better support student engagement and the development of environmental citizen identities.

Published: 28 Dec 2018

The New NGSS Classroom: A Curriculum Framework for Project-Based Science Learning

Holthuis, N., Deutscher, R., Schultz, S., Jamshidi, A. (2018). The New NGSS Classroom: A Curriculum Framework for Project-Based Science Learning, American Educator, Summer 2018.

This article discusses how the Project-Based curriculum framework designed by researchers from SCALE Science aligns to the new NGSS standards.

Published: Summer 2018

The New NGSS Classroom: A Curriculum Framework for Project-Based Science Learning

Holthuis, N., Deutscher, R., Schultz, S., Jamshidi, A. (2018). The New NGSS Classroom: A Curriculum Framework for Project-Based Science Learning, American Educator, Summer 2018.

This article discusses how the Project-Based curriculum framework designed by researchers from SCALE Science aligns to the new NGSS standards.

Published: Summer 2018

Engaging the Community With a Project-Based Approach

Halvorsen, A.-L., Duke, N. K., Strachan, S. L., & Johnson, C. M. (2018). Engaging the Community With a Project-Based Approach. Social Education, 82(1), 24–29.

This journal article discusses the pedagogical approach and benefits of Project PLACE, a Michigan-based PBL initiative that examined the impact of a PBL curriculum on a group of second-grade social studies students, and how community involvement impacts classroom experience.

Published: January/February 2018

Engaging the Community With a Project-Based Approach

Halvorsen, A.-L., Duke, N. K., Strachan, S. L., & Johnson, C. M. (2018). Engaging the Community With a Project-Based Approach. Social Education, 82(1), 24–29.

This journal article discusses the pedagogical approach and benefits of Project PLACE, a Michigan-based PBL initiative that examined the impact of a PBL curriculum on a group of second-grade social studies students, and how community involvement impacts classroom experience.

Published: January/February 2018

Examining the Potential of Computer Science and Making for Supporting Project-Based Learning

This literature review examines how computer science and making and makerspace approaches may inform a project-based learning approach for supporting three-dimensional science learning at the elementary level.

Severance. S., Miller, E., Peek-Brown, D. Krajcik J. (2018, April 02). Examining the Potential of Computer Science and Making for Supporting Project-Based Learning [PDF]. Nicasio: Lucas Education Research.

Published: 2 April 2018

Examining the Potential of Computer Science and Making for Supporting Project-Based Learning

This literature review examines how computer science and making and makerspace approaches may inform a project-based learning approach for supporting three-dimensional science learning at the elementary level.

Severance. S., Miller, E., Peek-Brown, D. Krajcik J. (2018, April 02). Examining the Potential of Computer Science and Making for Supporting Project-Based Learning [PDF]. Nicasio: Lucas Education Research.

Published: 2 April 2018

Making Project-Based Learning Actionable with Ambitious Instruction

Stroupe, D., DeBarger, A.H., and Warner, N. (2017). Making Project-Based Learning Actionable with Ambitious Instruction. Lucas Education Research.

The emergence of various standards revisions in K-12 education, including the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, represent an exciting effort to reimagine expectations for teaching and learning in classrooms. Across reform efforts, multiple goals describe a different view of education than exists in many classrooms, including an emphasis on deeper learning in and across disciplines, a broad recognition that teachers need to do more to prepare learners to be ready for college, and reimagining of expectations for teaching and learning.

Published: January 2017

Making Project-Based Learning Actionable with Ambitious Instruction

Stroupe, D., DeBarger, A.H., and Warner, N. (2017). Making Project-Based Learning Actionable with Ambitious Instruction. Lucas Education Research.

The emergence of various standards revisions in K-12 education, including the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, represent an exciting effort to reimagine expectations for teaching and learning in classrooms. Across reform efforts, multiple goals describe a different view of education than exists in many classrooms, including an emphasis on deeper learning in and across disciplines, a broad recognition that teachers need to do more to prepare learners to be ready for college, and reimagining of expectations for teaching and learning.

Published: January 2017

Project-Based Instruction: A Great Match for Informational Texts

Duke, N.K. (2016). Project-Based Instruction: A Great Match for Informational Texts. American Educator, 40 (3).

Research increasingly shows that project-based approaches- in which students build something, create something, solve a real problem or address a real need- improve students' knowledge and skills.

Published: Fall 2016

Project-Based Instruction: A Great Match for Informational Texts

Duke, N.K. (2016). Project-Based Instruction: A Great Match for Informational Texts. American Educator, 40 (3).

Research increasingly shows that project-based approaches- in which students build something, create something, solve a real problem or address a real need- improve students' knowledge and skills.

Published: Fall 2016

Project-Based Learning Not Just for STEM Anymore

Duke, N.K., Halvorsen A-L., & Strachan, S. L. (2016). Project-based learning not just for STEM anymore. Phi Delta Kappan, 98 (1).

The popularity of project-based learning has been driven in part by a growing number of STEM schools and programs. But STEM subjects are not the only fertile ground for project based learning. Social studies and literacy content, too, can be adapted into PBL units to benefit teaching and learning, the authors argue.

Published: August 29, 2016

Project-Based Learning Not Just for STEM Anymore

Duke, N.K., Halvorsen A-L., & Strachan, S. L. (2016). Project-based learning not just for STEM anymore. Phi Delta Kappan, 98 (1).

The popularity of project-based learning has been driven in part by a growing number of STEM schools and programs. But STEM subjects are not the only fertile ground for project based learning. Social studies and literacy content, too, can be adapted into PBL units to benefit teaching and learning, the authors argue.

Published: August 29, 2016

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