PBL led to equivalent or stronger performances by high school students who spent time in PBL classes.
One study by Gallagher and Stephien showed that the average gain for PBL students was higher than their
non-peer counterparts (Gallagher & Stephien, 1996).
PBL had its origins in medical schools as a way to test the general knowledge base of medical students,
and resulted in insight on how to apply knowledge within “active, interactive, and collaborative learning
processes”, all of which were essential skills not only in the medical field, but in other graduate school
programs including architecture, business, engineering, teacher education and many others (Hung et al.,
Motivation and Engagement
Several sources cite the effectiveness of PBL for increasing student motivation and engagement. Here are
three examples the PBL Task Force reported:
Blumenfeld, et al. (1991) explain that:
“Student interest and perceived value are enhanced when (a) tasks are varied and include novel
elements; (b) the problem is authentic and has value; (c) the problem is challenging; (d) there is
closure, so that an artifact is created; (e) there is choice about what and/or how work is done;
and (f) there are opportunities to work with others”.
In another study, it was found that students in PBL classes demonstrated high levels of
engagement while also improving organizational skills and motivation (CELL, 2009).
Additionally, students’ motivation to learn their discipline and their willingness to work on
projects for an extended period of time allows them to discover who they are as learners. They
are able to make better choices, whether relating to process, environment or outcome, which
enables them to become more independent and responsible for their own learning. Furthermore,
results suggest that PBL may increase the motivation and social confidence of students with
special needs (Levy, 2008).
Collaboration and Cooperation
Project Based Learning has been shown to benefit students in developing collaborative skills, including
understanding multiple perspectives, conflict resolution, and conscientiousness (CELL, 2009). PBL
increases students’ abilities to negotiate, collectively solve problems, and work productively as a team
(Bell, 2010). Results from ASB’s PBL trials show that, in all cases, teachers strongly agreed that “students
successfully collaborated during their project”. This shows that our teachers recognized successful
collaboration as an outcome of running their PBL trials.
PBL can provide an environment conducive to cooperative learning in the same way that it fosters
collaboration (Moursund, 2003). Cooperative learning, in turn, has been shown to positively impact
academic and social skills when explicit training and careful organization are factored in (Johnson, 1986).