Results in Student Achievement Through Project-Based Learning

Friday 01 Mar

We have been teaching subjects such as History, Geography, Science, Technology, Civics and Citizenship and Economics and Business through a project-based learning (PBL) framework since 2015-2016.

Since the implementation of PBL, we have seen a 15% improvement of students who have achieved either ‘above’ or a ‘well above’ the achievement standard in subjects such as History, Geography, Science and Technology. This equates to 75 students across our school.

An average of 88% of our students achieved ‘at the achievement standard’ or ‘above’ in the subjects covered through PBL, which is a significant improvement compared to the more traditional way we used to teach these subjects. We have seen a 7% reduction in students who achieved below the achievement standard since the implementation of PBL – which represents 35 students across our school.

We are thrilled that the implementation of PBL has benefited so many students’ academic results, understanding and learning across our community. We are also thrilled that our students find PBL more engaging than more traditional methods of teaching with our students in Senior Primary reporting that PBL is their favourite subject according to our 2017 student survey. Our Junior Primary students report that PBL is their second favourite subject behind reading. 30% more of our students also report that they love coming to school since the implementation of PBL compared to before implementation.

PBL is a student-centred approach to learning that occurs over an extended time period, during which students plan, investigate and produce a product, presentation or performance that answers a real-world question or responds to an authentic challenge. Teachers generally serve as facilitators, providing strategic instruction, scaffolding and guidance.

PBL became extremely popular in pre-professional training in medicine, science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers in the 1970s. Momentum has developed to extend these practices to primary and secondary classrooms with 40 years of research in schools clearly showing that project-based learning is superior to traditional teaching methods in a range of areas. These findings have shown:

  • Students who participated in PBL exhibited greater content knowledge than traditionally taught peers, retained the content for longer and had a deeper understanding of what they were learning.
  • On high-stakes tests, PBL students perform as well or better than traditionally taught students and had greater problem solving and thinking skills.
  • Students who participated in PBL were more engaged in school and in their learning, were more independent and were more skilled in collaboration and conflict resolution than their traditionally taught peers.
  • PBL teaches important soft skills such as creativity, information literacy, adaptability and resilience. 57% of senior leaders on LinkedIn say soft skills are more critical to their business than hard skills

At Living Faith, our students develop knowledge and skills in subjects such as History, Geography, Science, Economics and Business, Visual Arts and Technology through semester-long PBL units. These subjects are combined together through an extensive school-wide scope and sequence that ensures that the Australian Curriculum is addressed in all areas.

To ensure that your child gains the knowledge and skills that they need, different PBLs have very different focuses. We are particularly mindful that all our students experience Science-focused PBLs so that they can develop their scientific knowledge and develop skills such as planning and conducting experiments and fair tests and write scientific reports.

Research suggests that results continue to improve the longer that students learn through PBL. We look forward to seeing this improvement in our students’ achievement, learning and engagement as they move through the year levels.

- Rebecca McConnell, Director of Learning and Innovation