Nieuw rapport waarschuwt voor mogelijke ongelijke kansen door projectwerk op school

Het is een conclusie die sommige zullen verbazen, behalve als ze een zekere notie van cognitieve psychologie hebben: projectwerk zou een negatief effect kunnen hebben op het leren van kinderen die door bijvoorbeeld sociaal-economische omstandigheden zwakker aan de les beginnen. Dit is het resultaat van een nieuw onderzoek van EEF in opdracht van de Britse overheid waarbij een trial gebeurde met in eerste instantie 24 scholen waarbij 12 scholen klassiek te werk gingen waarbij met typische vakken gewerkt werd en 12 scholen met vakoverschrijdende projecten de leerstof aanpakten. Er zouden echter ook positieve aspecten aan groepswerk zijn.

Tijdens het onderzoeken verlieten 4 scholen het onderzoeksproject. Dit laatste zorgt er voor dat de onderzoekers zeer voorzichtig willen zijn met hun conclusies, zeker over de mogelijke negatieve gevolgen.

Wat zijn hun belangrijkste conclusies:

  1. Adopting PBL had no clear impact on either literacy (as measured by the Progress in English assessment) or student engagement with school and learning.
  2. The impact evaluation indicated that PBL may have had a negative impact on the literacy attainment of pupils entitled to free school meals. However, as no negative impact was found for low-attaining pupils, considerable caution should be applied to this finding.
  3. The amount of data lost from the project (schools dropping out and lost to follow-up) particularly from the intervention schools, as well as the adoption of PBL or similar approaches by a number of control group schools, further limits the strength of any impact finding.
  4. From our observations and feedback from schools, we found that PBL was considered to be worthwhile and may enhance pupils’ skills including oracy, communication, teamwork, and self-directed study skills.
  5. PBL was generally delivered with fidelity but requires substantial management support and organisational change. The Innovation Unit training and support programme for teachers and school leadership was found to be effective in supporting this intervention.

Je merkt de terecht voorzichtige houding. Maar wat raden de onderzoekers scholen nu aan?

We evaluated a version of Project Based Learning (PBL) called ‘Learning through REAL projects’, which aims to improve attainment by delivering the curriculum through cross-subject projects accounting for 20-50% of timetabled teaching. We funded this trial because PBL is a popular teaching approach, even though there is limited evidence on its effectiveness.

We found no evidence that PBL had a positive impact on pupils’ literacy or their engagement with school and learning. However, the evaluation indicated that PBL may have had a negative impact on literacy for pupils eligible for free school meals. This study uses a high-quality evaluation design and is among the best evidence to date on the impact of PBL. However, because of the high number of schools that dropped out, these findings are less secure than those from most EEF trials, and caution should be exercised when interpreting them.

For schools thinking of adopting PBL, the implications on timetabling and staffing should be considered alongside the findings in this report. It is also important to consider the opportunity-costs of implementing a new, large scale whole-school approach to teaching, in particular the time it takes to train teachers to deliver a new pedagogical approach.

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