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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Evidence that PBL Works

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Many of us out there know that project-based learning (PBL) inspires students to understand core content knowledge more deeply and gain key skills for success in college and career. Many of us have also directly contributed to results for students on state tests, college-going, and college persistence metrics.

In addition, we know from surveys and focus groups that most of our students are engaged and excited about learning; however, until now, we did not have a rigorous experimental design study approved by the United States Department of Education.

The Data

Here's some exciting news: the Regional Education Laboratory West (REL West), just released a report called: Effects of Problem Based Economics on High School Economics Instruction. Designed as an in-school, randomized controlled trial that tested the effectiveness of a problem-based economics (PBE) curriculum developed by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) on student learning and problem solving skills. (Full disclosure: I helped create the curriculum as a teacher in the late 90's and I serve on the BIE Board of Directors.)

From the BIE website:


As exciting as this news is for practitioners and school leaders who support PBL, I am still left with some essential questions:

Do you think more people will decide to use PBL because we now have "hard" data to confirm our beliefs about student learning? If not, what will it take to convince them to use a PBL approach? Does data really help convince people to change practice? If not, what does?

What do you think?

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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