Project Based Learning Works!


There is a new study out on project based learning (PBL) that shows connections between this type of curriculum and raising achievement levels.  Bob Lenz in his blog for Edutopia discusses the results.  I quote…

  • Students outscored their peers in the control group who received the more typical textbook- and lecture-driven approach.
  • Students also scored higher on measures of problem-solving skills and their application to real-world economic challenges
  • Teachers scored higher in satisfaction with teaching material and methods than those in the control group.

The URL is

Equally interesting to read are the comments.  Bruce Bonney who has worked with many teachers on developing PBL curriculum shares his thoughts on why some educators are open to changing their practice and why others are not.  His points would make an interesting prompt for a discussion in a healthy  PLC.

Bright Futures Core Practice # 1 calls for curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory.  Great descriptors of  project based learning!

Many middle grades educators in Maine have been developing this type of unit for years.  For example,  there are a number of schools that have adopted the Expeditionary Learning Model (  Some of these schools include King Middle School, Bath Middle School, and Wiscasset Middle School.  Others like science teacher Sherry Littlefield at Warsaw MS in Pittsfield have used the work of James Beane and Barbara Brodhagen as an inspiration for including students’ questions in developing project-based integrated units.  Actually several Maine educators have published books on the topic:

1. Alexander, W., Carr, D., and McAvoy, K. (2006). Student-oriented curriculum; A remarkable journey of discovery. Westerville, OH: NMSA.

2. Carr, D. ( 2003). Getting started with curriculum integration. Topsfield, MA: New England League of Middle Schools.

3. Nesin, G. and Lounsbury, J. (1991). Curriculum integration: Twenty questions—with answers. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Middle School Association.

Other schools have garden projects that are related to the curriculum (Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast), participate in  National History Day, or Project Citizen.  There are a variety of ways to approach project based learning.

Edutopia is a grand resource if one wants ideas or a starting point for creating PBL units.


2 Responses to “Project Based Learning Works!”

  1. Gary Oswald Says:

    We run numerous project based learning activities at Mt. Blue Middle School in Farmington, Maine. Anything from civil war, holocaust, rock-n-roll, etc… We also are starting up a garden project with our regular ed. , alternative ed. , and our Foster technology school as a collaborative. Many fantastic learnings happening at Mt Blue Middle School, come and see if you’d like to.

  2. Jill Spencer Says:


    I know folks from Mt. Blue MS have presented at MAMLE on some of their great units (rock-n-roll, etc.). I would love to come visit! I’m starting to do more writing and love to collect stories from around Maine. Do you think any of the staff or students would be interested in writing a blog post about one of the project-based units? We love guest bloggers!

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