Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Barbara Zwadyk

Abstract

This case study explored the utilization of project-based learning (PBL) and how it affected student engagement and interest in STEM careers. Sixty-seven students and nine teachers participated in this case study. Three research questions addressed student engagement, perceptions, and challenges during PBL implementation.

This study was designed to understand the experiences teachers and students had when they participated in a PBL environment. This research investigated how to develop a globally skilled workforce utilizing a PBL approach and the challenges teachers encountered during implementation. The survey data and informal focus-group sessions with staff and students were utilized, analyzed, and summarized in order to obtain insight on perceptions, challenges, and implementation of PBL.

PBL is an instructional approach that was designed to encourage more engaged learning. This approach was built upon realistic learning activities that stimulated student interest and motivation. This research discovered that PBL did teach content and 21st century skills as students worked collaboratively toward a common goal while responding to a question or problem. This study revealed that rigorous projects were carefully planned to aid students in learning important academic content. This study displayed how PBL allowed students to reflect on their projects and ideas with the opportunity to voice their decisions and findings. This instructional approach provided opportunities for students to investigate and strengthen interest in future STEM careers.

The driving force of America's future economy and maintaining the competitive edge will be through more innovation, mainly derived from advances in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers. As business and industry leaders stressed the importance of improving STEM education, there continued to be a need to better prepare students to fill STEM-related careers. This research adds to the current body of research knowledge on STEM education in a high school setting and provides guidance on integrating PBL into the academic program.

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