New Study Shows the Impact of PBL on Student Achievement

December 4, 2017

Duke, N.K., & Halvorsen, A. (2017, June 20). New study shows the impact of PBL on student achievement [Web log post]. Retrieved from 

In our study, we randomly assigned second-grade teachers in high-poverty schools that had low performance on state tests to two groups.  One taught social studies using the project-based units we designed (the experimental or PBL group), and the other taught social studies as they normally did (the control group). We asked teachers in both groups to teach 80 social studies lessons over the course of the year, so that we would be comparing two different ways of teaching social studies, rather than teaching social studies versus not.

None of the teachers involved in the study reported previous experience teaching PBL. PBL-group teachers received detailed plans for four project-based units (on economics, geography, history, and civics and government). Each of the 20 sessions in a unit was written out in detail, while leaving room for some teacher and student voice and choice. Sessions were tightly aligned to Michigan social studies and informational reading and writing standards (which are the Common Core State Standards) and included research-supported instructional practices. (See our article “Projects That Have Been Put to the Test” for more detail.)