Does project-based learning boost academic performance?
Expeditionary Learning, a national school reform network that supports an interdisciplinary project-based approach to teaching and learning, cited the findings of a UMass Donahue Institute study in the article, Activating Citizens, which profiled a year-long project undertaken by sixth graders at the Genesee Community Charter School in Rochester, New York. Focused on the creation of a skate park system, the project is a critical component of the EL curriculum, applying the cumulative skills and knowledge acquired during a student’s elementary school years to a community program which fosters engagement and provides opportunity for rigorous inquiry and broad study across subject areas. The UMDI research appears as a companion to the story, illustrating the positive impact that EL has on academic proficiency of Rochester students.
Research Manager Eliot Levine of UMDI’s Research & Evaluation group investigated a matched comparison group of elementary and middle schools in Rochester from the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years and compared academic performance levels of students attending EL schools with those at non-EL schools.
Levine’s research showed the effect of being in an Expeditionary Learning school to be positive, substantial and significant for both years of elementary school mathematics, both years of elementary school English Language Arts, and both years of middle school English Language Arts. The difference between EL and non-EL schools on middle school mathematics in 2007-08 was not statistically significant, and non-EL schools showed a significant advantage in middle school mathematics in 2008-09.
May 11, 2012