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Project-based science trumps traditional curriculum

Students following Next Generation Science Standards show higher performance

Students following a project-based, inquiry curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) outperformed their peers who received traditional instruction, according to a National Science Foundation study released last spring.

The independent report, titled “Curriculum Materials Make a Difference for Next Generation Science Learning,” compared the impact of “Project-Based Inquiry Science” to that of traditional curriculum materials. The study included approximately 100 sixth-grade teachers and more than 3,000 sixth-grade students across 42 middle schools in a district with a high percentage of low income families.

Overall, project-based learning students in scored significantly higher on post-unit tests than their peers in traditional science classrooms.

The new curriculum also can help close the learning gaps among minority students in STEM courses, and also level the field between girls and boys, the study revealed. The study demonstrated that boys and girls using a project-based curriculum learned and tested at similar rates. It reached the same conclusion for students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The study also found that teachers using the project-based curriculum were more likely to engage students in four science practices: constructing explanations, developing models, conducting investigations, and asking questions.