Project Based Learning (PBL): the Cognitive and Motivational Impact on Secondary Students of Mathematics

Student Author(s)

Nicholas Haugen

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Vicki-Lynn Holmes; Dr. Yooyeun Hwang

Document Type


Event Date



The Phase one of this longitudinal study investigated the impact of cognitive and motivational factors of Project-Based Learning (PBL) on Secondary mathematics’ students in order to determine the effectiveness of this pedagogical approach on learning. Specifically, for two years, this study followed two comparable groups of 8th and 9th graders from a PBL school and a conventional public high school, which represented a wide range of mathematical abilities (deep vs. superficial conceptual knowledge) and demographic diversity (race/ethnicity/SES). Each semester, both quantitative (i.e., on-line surveys) and qualitative assessments (student and teacher interviews and classroom observation) were conducted and analyzed. These results showed that at-risk and minority students benefited from PBL in learning mathematics; the academic performance gap was present, but the width of the gap diminished significantly. Compared to conventional high school students, PBL students were stronger in employing or regulating effective study strategies, critical thinking skills self-efficacy and self-regulation, while showing significantly lower test anxiety.

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