To do PBL, you need to become a
“PBL school” exclusively.
Different schools use PBL in differing proportions. PBL is very
adaptable, projects can be used in one or multiple disciplines,
for a specific topic or all topics, for a short part of the year or
throughout the year. Being successful at PBL doesn’t preclude
other methods of instruction. Teachers need to apply a wide
variety of teaching and learning strategies including direct
(Adapted from Buck Institute for Education)
Is Project-Based Learning successful with students of all ages and abilities?
The most important aspect of the PBL Task Force inquiry was uncovering the research on the impact of
Project Based Learning on student learning. The task force felt it was important to try to gather a 360
degree understanding of the impact of PBL on student learning. They decided it was important to gather
information on student learning from a broad variety of educational perspectives. What follows are the
settings, lenses, and findings the Task Force used to understand the impact of PBL on student learning.
A wide variety of studies demonstrated that PBL schools outperformed their non-PBL counterparts on
Subject/ Content Area Achievement
PBL excels in the area of real-world problem solving and application of knowledge. PBL students scored
significantly better overall on applied and conceptual problems in the same standardized tests. Students
from PBL schools emerged with useful, real-world content knowledge that they could apply to a variety
of tasks (Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning [CELL], 2009).
Even on standardized tests of basic concepts, PBL is able to hold its own in comparison to lecture-based
approaches (Ravitz, 2009).
Data on standardized tests supports a shift to PBL and interdisciplinary learning throughout the
elementary levels. In one implementation of PBL in three Dubuque Iowa schools, the three schools
demonstrated gains of 15% to over 90% on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (Thomas 2000).
Students who learn through PBL units learned more deeply, retaining knowledge for significantly longer
than their peers. One implementation of PBL as the primary mode of instruction in a Maine Middle School
showed increases across all six curriculum areas measured by a statewide standardized test (Thomas