Research Shows Project-Based Learning Boosts Student Engagement and Test Scores

In a new study, PBL helped students perform better on standardized assessments and project tests than students in direct-instruction programs

Defined Learning, a K-12 educational media company combining technology, creativity, and curriculum to provide useful and relevant tools to schools, today announced the release of a new research report, developed by MIDA Learning Technologies, LLC. The report focuses on quantitative and qualitative evaluations of students’ problem-solving abilities after implementation of Defined STEM in science class.   

The research proves that the PBL strategies used by Defined STEM help students understand concepts more deeply than those who had traditional instruction, resulting in better performance on a wide range of assessments. Teachers reported marked improvements in the depth of students’ discussions and their problem-solving skills.

“I can see the growth from the beginning where we started out with the students, and I could see the growth as students increasingly took on more responsibility,” said a participating 2nd-grade teacher. “As time went on, (students) were not just asking questions but answering them.”

A participating 5th-grade teacher added, “Students didn’t look at it as learning—they were having fun. They also had a sense of accomplishment when they saw what they have done.”

The meaningful and authentic tasks presented by Defined STEM learning support student development of real-world skills and analytical thinking. In these projects, students are told that they are in the role of a real-world job, and are given a real-world problem to solve while collaborating with their peers. These tasks increase engagement by showing how the material learned can be applied to a future career, which allows students to imagine themselves in that career path.

According to the research, this increased engagement resulted in students performing better on both standardized assessments and project tests than students in traditional direct-instruction programs.

“This research is a powerful validation of our project-based approach to education,” said Joel Jacobson, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Defined Learning. “The data shows that PBL promotes independence, collaboration and problem-solving, all while keeping students engaged and showcasing how the tasks they do in school will be relevant to future careers.”

For more information, please download the research report here.