Literature review


 

The explanation

A researcher, Harris (2015), found that project-based learning allowed students to understand science on a “next level” by incorporating more than just the science content. Yadav et al (2011) studied an electrical engineering course at Midwestern university. They sought to find empirical evidence regarding problem based learning. They implemented problem based learning as a student-centered type of learning and used regular lecture based teaching as the baseline. In the end, they determined empirically that the “learning gains were twice their gains from traditional lecture”. The interesting point following this is that even though empirically they proved that students learned more from problem based learning, the students reported that they felt they had learned more from lecture based learning. Han et al. (2011) questioned how project based learning could affect students feelings around STEM work. The researchers explain why they think that project based learning will have an effect. “The pedagogic concept of project-based learning is different from traditional learning in that it tries to develop students into active learners who actively acquire necessary knowledge to resolve problems that appear in the project, not as passive learners who always receive second hand knowledge” (p. 88). They gathered their results from student questionairs distributed before the project based lessons were given and after. They tracked the change in student feeling and attitudes in math, science, engineering, and technology. They found that before the project based learning was introduced students were most interested in technology, but after their introduction students were most often interested in engineering. They found that: “one of the reasons for students’ negative attitudes towards science was due to the abstract nature and complexity of science”(p. 89). They moved on to explain where the root of this problem lay and they defined it as follows. “These arguments may imply that teaching instruction is the major reason for low interest and negative attitudes towards school science learning in current curricula worldwide. This may be due to the fact that science teachers focus mainly on theoretical understanding rather than practical work, which reduces the opportunities for students to implement their science experience” (p. 89). Harris (2015) explains that in order for students to be effective in science education students need to act as scientists. Through researching middle-school project based curriculums they found that students who are taught by scientists rather than simply educators as well as in a problem-based fashion was more effective. Harris (2015) did this study through randomized testing in sixth grade classrooms in 42 different schools in the same district. They compared and contrasted students taught in a regular classroom setting with a textbook that they defined as the “comparison condition” versus students in a project-based classroom that they called the “treatment condition”. Students in the “treatment condition” “outperformed” students in the “comparison condition” on both science ideas and science practices. Interestingly, Harris (2015) found that project-based learning allowed students to understand science on a “next level” by incorporating “disciplinary content” along with the science content. The use of quantifying data as well as qualifying data was encouraging.


The importance of relationships 

"Psychiatrist William Glasser is notable among those who have borrowed from and added to these enlightened management perspectives. He argues that students will act to meet basic human needs (which he asserts are survival, love, fun, power, and freedom) and will prefer productive choices if those choices are available. The key, for Glasser, is to give students the responsibility for choosing those actions that will fulfill their own needs" (Oakes et al., 2016, pg. 228). Hung et al. (2012) explains that there are a number of challenges associated with effectively implementing project based learning within a science classroom. They sought to determine if it was helpful for students within a science classroom. Hung et al. paired project based learning and online learning and determined that students were much more successful. They found that it improved their “science learning motivation, problem-solving competence, and learning achievement”. They also found that it encouraged more interpersonal relationships within the classroom. Additionally, they found that project based learning resulted in “higher order cognitive functioning”. Similarly, Oakes et al. notes, "When a teacher conveys personal interest in and liking for students, students are more likely to imitate the teacher's behavior, adopt his or her attitudes, and be sympathetic when other students misbehave" (2016, pg. 233). Hugerat (2016) found that students felt that in a project-based classroom they had "with greater teacher supportiveness, and the teacher–student relationships as significantly more positive”. Similarly, Oakes et al. (2016) talks about how harsh disciplinary action simply encourages students to figure out what they can get away with rather than focusing on how to actually proceed. Oakes et al. (2016) also talks about the importance of relationships between students and teachers further urging that these relationships are particularly important "for those who have been traditionally underserved" (pg. 241). 

Hugerat (2016) studied 458 ninth-grade students in two separate Arab schools in Israel. The students were split into two groups. One group learning with project-based learning, and the other group learning with traditional methods. They encouraged that “the classes were heterogeneous regarding their achievements in the sciences”. This study focused on how students felt about their learning to help assert that PjBL encouraged students to not only learn more, but to enjoy the learning. Hugerat (2016) found that the students who learned through project-based learning “perceived their classroom learning climate as significantly more satisfying and enjoyable, with greater teacher supportiveness, and the teacher–student relationships as significantly more positive”. By their research, they felt that the differences in student feedback were linked to the teaching strategies. "When adults praise effort (or strategies), however, they send a growth mind-set message: you can build your abilities through effort" (Dweck, 2010, pg. 28). In Teaching to Change the World by Oakes et al., Amy Lee a first grade teacher expresses the struggles of trying to get through to a student named Hector. Here she works to build a trusting relationship that she builds upon daily to show that she is honest and true in her intentions. In the end she builds a closeness that allows her student, Hector, to grow in his learning. This teacher is similarly enforcing the idea of a growth mind-set (2016, pg. 226). 


THe focus of Hands-on experience 

Garrick & Clegg (2001) decided to look at project based learning within the college and university level. Spending much of the time introducing the contradicting ideas behind project based learning they come to multiple definitions to round themselves out. They defined project based learning as learning rooted in self experience and that which is tactful towards growth in the workplace. Mostly the researchers defined project based learning around the idea of creating students that can function successfully in a workplace. While this is not exactly my definition of project based learning as I intend to implement it within a high school classroom, it is a helpful contrasting definition. Through this definition, they explain that often now, workers experience intense stress from the expectation for reflection. The researchers felt that by asking a student to learn in a project based manner and then to follow up with a greater reflection than often asked for in a classroom, the students were experiencing a greater amount of stress than necessary. The main summarizing findings and argument are that project based learning offers a practical way for teachers to organize their classrooms, but that the teacher much recognize limitations and stressors from the students. This article was a deeper look into what project based learning is more than anything else. They use qualifying data to enforce their point. The main focus of Krajcik (2015) was a term called “three-dimensional learning”. They defined this as being a combination of “disciplinary core ideas, scientific and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts as outlined by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)”. They connected these ideas through the use of technology, student collaboration, faculty-student collaboration and integration of props and tools to make learning physical. Kanter (2010) focused on how to create assessments that encouraged the same methods taught in a PjBL environment. He focused on some tactics to help determine what types of curricula helped to integrate project-based learning effectively and what felt like a competition or a poor attempt at interesting. He also tried to focus on how to not lose content by changing the curricula to project-based learning arguing that often people lack on content when they change their style. Two ideas that Kanter (2010) had were to “create the demand” and to ensure “application”. While this was an article based solely in ideas of PjBL and not in findings surrounding implementation, it still asserted productive methods for assessment. 


the recognition and role of gender 

In Han et al.’s research (n.d.), three different teachers from the same school were asked to implement project based learning into their classrooms at least once every six weeks for three years. All three teachers were trained in project based learning techniques from the same instructor. Students had originally taken a required test for the state of Texas and had recorded scores. The results were that students that began as lower-achieving were the most influenced by the implementation of project based learning. Overall this reduced the achievement gap. Gender was found to be one of the critical factors to affect a student’s achievement – specifically finding that gender had the greatest influence on achievement within science evaluations when paired against mathematics, reading and writing. Not only did they find that the science problem based learning positively affected achievement, they also found that students “showed positive attitudes toward learning itself, team communication, and collaborative behavior.”. The study continues to note that a science problem based learning environment was found to “increase students’ interest, self-confidence, and self-efficacy” (p. 1092). Oakes et al. notes that "Ensuring gender-fair classrooms requires more than just ensuring equitable opportunities for girls to participate, communicate, build confidence and excel. It requires ensuring that such opportunities are available to all students. Anything less compromises learning for all involved and falls short of emulating the kind of democratic society we aspire to be - one that invites and values multiple voices, rather than elevating some over others" (Oakes et al., 2016, pg. 250). It was similarly noted that "Engagement and motivation are key in brining girls into high-paying, highly rewarding disciplines in which they been systematically underrepresented" (Kuriloff, Andrus, & Jacobs, 2017, pg. xix).

 "When the material that girls learn daily is relevant to their lives, goals, and ongoing questions, they find it particularly meaningful and memorable... [G]irls appreciate lessons and activities in which they can directly apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-life tasks and challenges"  (Kuriloff, Andrus, & Jacobs, 2017, pg. 12) "A classroom environment that many girls find constructive and conducive to learning is one in which the teachers make their expectations and procedures clear and present them in a detailed manner that is easy to follow" (Kuriloff, Andrus, & Jacobs, 2017, pg. 12).  "[G]irls enjoy collaborating with one another because it makes learning fun and both emotionally and intellectually involving...[it] also provides a way for girls to learn the material by gaining insights from different peers' perspectives... [and] it promotes bonding an the ability to get to know one another in more complex ways"  (Kuriloff, Andrus, & Jacobs, 2017, pg. 26). Han et al. (n.d.) noticed that classrooms that had implemented project-based learning not only found that it positively affected achievement, they also found that students “showed positive attitudes toward learning itself, team communication, and collaborative behavior”(pg. 1092). "When female students adopt a growth mind-set, their grades and achievement test scores in mathematics become similar to those of their male classmates. In these studies, every group seemed to benefit from holding a growth mind-set, but the stereotyped groups gained the most" (Dweck, 2010, pg. 29). 

"Ensuring gender-fair classrooms requires more than just ensuring equitable opportunities for girls to participate, communicate, build confidence and excel. It requires ensuring that such opportunities are available to all students. Anything less compromises learning for all involved and falls short of emulating the kind of democratic society we aspire to be - one that invites and values multiple voices, rather than elevating some over others" (Oakes et al., 2016, pg. 250). Tomlinson and McTighe (2006) define "categories of student variance with contributors and implications for learning". The first of the four categories is "biology". The first defined contributor to this category is "gender". They note that some of the implication for learning are as follows: "High ability and disability exist in a whole range of endeavors. Students will learn in different modes. Students will learn on different timetables. Some parameters for learning are somewhat defined, but are malleable with appropriate context and support" (pg. 17). Due to this differentiation I aimed to pair students with a partner of the opposite gender to encourage them to work together and support each other. Similarly, I hoped to minimize the importance and differentiation that gender plays within engineering by continually keeping students in multi-gendered groups. I also hoped that by assigning students groups that students would branch out and work with a greater variety of students in the class.