The Impact Of Project Based Learning On Academic Achievement

Project and Seminar Material for Education

Project and Seminar Material for Education


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background To The Study

Considerable empirical evidence exists that when students drop out of high school, the economic and social health of America is jeopardized. Dropouts are likely to be dependent on public assistance, engage in criminal activities, and experience health problems (Muennig, 2007; Rumberger, & Thomas, 2000; Waldfogel, Garfinkel, & Kelly, 2007). Much of the attention on dropouts has focused on high schools and their efforts to build and sustain high levels of student engagement in school and learning through innovative practices (Finn, 1993; Marks, 2000). However, as Orthernr, Cook, Rose and Randolph (2002) reported, many students do not have access to these innovative efforts because they disengage from their education well before high school. In fact, “the social-psychological and behavioral disengagement from school that leads to dropping out often begins in middle school” (Orthernr, Cook, Rose, & Randolph, 2010, p. 223).

Equally concerning are the difficult transitions middle school students experience and the impact of such transitions on standardized test scores. Randolph, Fraser and Orthner (2006) reported that if students experienced difficult transitions from fifth to sixth grade, their math and reading scores significantly declined. On one hand, adolescents, ages 10-15, go through rapid change and are vulnerable to their emotions (Johnson, 2012). Johnson goes on to say, they are fun, excited about life, sensitive, overwhelmed and in turmoil. Their emotions are high and logic rarely prevails. Friends begin to replace parents and peer acceptance, socialization, appearance and body image are everything.

The middle school student continuously tests and breaks the rules but needs boundaries. They demand independence but seek the reassurance of love and caring from adults. The middle school student is a conflicted human being. On the other hand, we know little of how middle schools are approaching these student behaviors amidst standardization. Evidence exists that intervention programs aimed at over-age middle school students help students back on track for on-time graduation (Finnan & Kombe, 2011).

These accelerated programs help students develop confidence through academic accomplishments, a sense of belonging and engagement in the classroom. However, with these types of intervention programs limitations exists because they rarely include preparing students for experiences outside of the classroom and as a contributing member of society. Furthermore, academic accomplishments do not necessary translate to whether a student is able to apply what he or she has learned to his or her daily life.

As Dewey suggested, it is important to consider whether educational experiences isolate the student from life experiences. Others, such as Richardson (2012), suggested a shift in curriculum and pedagogy to allow for personalized learning experiences that allow students to connect his or her passions and interests as learners with society expectations. It is with this understanding that led the South Texas district in this study to adopt Project-Based Learning (PBL).

Project-based learning is a strategy used for engaging students in active and responsible learning. Students participated in an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge, and students who otherwise found school boring or meaningless were motivated to learn. Project-based learning motivated students to engage in their own learning and offered them the opportunity to pursue their own interests as they made decisions to solve real problems (Buck Institute for Education, 2011; Harada, Kirio, & Yamamoto, 2008). Researchers conducted studies over the last two decades that confirmed student engagement and motivation lead to higher academic performance (Brewster & Fager; Anderman & Midgley & Lumbsden).

Previous studies have demonstrated that using project-based learning had impacted student achievement in a multiplicity of ways. For the purpose of this study, the researcher was concerned with investigating the attributes or pedagogies within projectbased learning that impacted student with low academic achievement. Just learning about things, did not enable students to acquire the abilities, and understanding they needed for 21st century applications, rather,they needed new pedagogies of engagement that were meaningful, and resourceful for them to apply in the real world (Buck Institute for Education, (2011).

In addition, studies have shown that enhancements to project-based learning such as computer technology, cooperatives, other technology tools, attributes such as motivation, and attitudes to work, provided meaningful learning and increased interest (Edgerton) as cited in Smith, Sheppard, Johnson, & Johnson (2005). Extensive research was conducted on cooperative learning where small groups were used to maximize students’ learning (Smith et al., 2005). Technology enhancements to project-based learning were widely researched as well. The benefits of project-based learning were enhanced when technology was used (Edutopia, 2001). The researcher, however, used the grounded theory process to provide information on enhancements for analysis.

Previous studies have demonstrated that using project-based learning had impacted student achievement in a multiplicity of ways. For the purpose of this study, the researcher was concerned with investigating the attributes or pedagogies within project based learning that impacted student with low academic achievement. Just learning about things, did not enable students to acquire the abilities, and understanding they needed for 21st century applications, rather, they needed new pedagogies of engagement that were meaningful, and resourceful for them to apply in the real world (Buck Institute for Education, (2011).

In addition, studies have shown that enhancements to project-based learning such as computer technology, cooperatives, other technology tools, attributes such as motivation, and attitudes to work, provided meaningful learning and increased interest (Edgerton) as cited in Smith, Sheppard, Johnson, & Johnson (2005). Extensive research was conducted on cooperative learning where small groups were used to maximize students’ learning (Smith et al., 2005). Technology enhancements to project-based learning were widely researched as well. The benefits of project-based learning were enhanced when technology was used (Edutopia, 2001). The researcher, however, used the grounded theory process to provide information on enhancements for analysis.


1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Implementation research consists of studies designed to describe and inform the processes of planning and enactment of Project-Based Learning. Typically, implementation research involves observation, questionnaires, and interviews intended to identify difficulties encountered by participants with different aspects of the planning or enactment process. Implementation research is also referred to as formative evaluation and can be focused on a variety of participants (e. g., teachers, students, administrators, parents), factors (e. g., classroom factors, external factors, supports), and contexts (e. g., planning, working with others, enacting, troubleshooting, assessing).

More specifically, students tended to pursue questions without examining the merits of the question, they tended to pursue questions that were based on personal preference rather than questions that were warranted by the scientific content of the project, they had difficulty understanding the concept of controlled environments, they created research designs that were inadequate given their research questions, they developed incomplete plans for data collection, they often failed to carry out their plans systematically, they tended to present data and state conclusions without describing the link between the two, and they often did not use all of their data in drawing conclusions.


1.3 Objective Of The Study

The main objective of this study is to investigate the impact of project based learning on academic achievement of secondary school students, specifically the study intends to:

  1. Find out the positive impact of project based learning on the classroom performance of the teacher
  2. Discover the factors that influence students’ academic behavior
  3. Find out the significance impact of project based learning on the academic achievement of the students

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions was formulated to guide this research arrive at a valid conclusion:

  1. What is the positive impact of project based learning on the classroom performance of the teacher
  2. What are the factors that influence students’ academic behavior
  3. Is there any significance impact of project based learning on the academic achievement of the students

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Frequently Asked Questions


How effective is project-based learning in high poverty communities?

Researchers in Michigan show that project-based learning in high-poverty communities can produce statistically significant gains in social studies and informational reading. 

Why project based learning?

Because Project Based Learning engages students in learning that is deep and long-lasting, and inspires for them a love of learning and personal connection to their academic experience.

Does PBL raise student achievement in high poverty communities?

Rather than saying that PBL raises or does not raise student achievement compared to other approaches, the most defensible stance from our research is that PBL can raise student achievement in high-poverty communities.

How does PBL transform students’ educational experiences?

Here are just some of the ways that PBL transforms students’ educational experiences: Students actively engage with PBL projects that provide real-world relevance for learning. Students can solve problems that are important to them and their communities. PBL leads to deeper understanding and greater retention of content knowledge. 

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