Understanding Teachers' Experiences Implementing Project-Based Learning
Powers, Scott Kenneth
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Project-based learning (PBL) is a constructivist approach to instruction in which students are challenged to address a problem without sufficient knowledge at the outset to solve the problem. PBL models generally include a driving question, focus on real-world issues, require student inquiry and collaboration, allow for student choice, and result in the completion of a product. PBL could be considered a disruptive innovation within public education in the sense that it does not accord with existing social systems?beliefs, values, and shared commitments?that exist in most schools and it provides learners opportunities they do not otherwise have access to in school. The purpose of this record of study was to document how a group of teachers implemented a PBL instructional initiative, identify the extent to which teachers? beliefs aligned with their practices, and learn how the organization?s social systems impacted the implementation. This record of study employed a case study approach that focused on four junior high school teachers who implemented a PBL instructional model in their classrooms. Data analysis found that the most frequently used practices were: students working in a planned cooperative structure; teachers interacting with small groups of students; students in small groups discussing facts, ideas, and solutions; and students using the Web for research. Second, teachers indicated that they believed their practices aligned with constructivist principles overall while observations indicated teachers? practices reflected low-intermediate agreement with constructivist principles. Finally, the data analysis revealed teachers considered the principal a central figure for driving the implementation of PBL, making power and authority the feature systemic motivation for implementation. The analysis also found that teachers found the school?s student-centered instructional mission to be an important influence, although it was mediated by their beliefs regarding the students? participation in the PBL environment.