An examination of successes and challenges of teacher professional development for project-based learning in a STEM school

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This study addresses a gap in effectively training novice teachers for project-based learning (PBL). Many studies report that teachers face challenges in using PBL strategies in K-12 classrooms due to the complexity of the pedagogy, design, and implementation of PBL. It is even more challenging for novice teachers. The purposes of this study are to explore (a) teachers' perceptions towards the effectiveness of a newly designed PBL training program; (b) how the training affects teachers’ perceptions towards PBL; and (c) the factors associated with the successes and challenges of the training. Two middle school teachers at a STEM school were recruited to receive the ten-week training, and their perceptions were examined through multiple data sources. Using an iterative coding process, I found patterns that reflected several factors, such as teacher belief and classroom management, associated closely with the training program’s successes and challenges. Also, putting the teachers’ learning into practice in this training was found critical to help deepen teacher knowledge and transform teacher belief. Overall, both teachers perceived the teacher professional development to be effective in training them for PBL, and their perceptions of PBL in terms of understanding PBL and beliefs in PBL evolved over time during the training. The study’s findings suggest that teacher belief, classroom management, and teacher workload were closely associated with the training program’s successes and challenges. These findings contribute to better PBL training for novice teachers and aim to increase PBL usage at K-12 schools. An effective PBL training for novice teachers recommends scaffolding teacher growth from PBL knowledge to PBL co-design with mentors, then PBL implementation, and finally independent PBL design. Also, the training should provide the design and use of management documents to increase teachers’ self-efficacy in using PBL.

Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2022. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.

Project-Based Learning, Teacher Professional Development, Training Effectiveness