Using Project-Based Learning to Teach STEAM

  • Gary UbbenEmail author
Part of the Environmental Discourses in Science Education book series (EDSE, volume 5)


Teaching STEAM courses is more effective when students integrate information across disciplines. While the study of individual disciplines in K12 produces useful knowledge on the part of the learner, it is only by drawing on the knowledge base of several of these disciplines, including the arts, that many complex real-world problems can be addressed. Project-Based Learning (PBL) provides excellent opportunities for integrated learning by using student-directed problem-solving to produce a product and, in so doing, gain mastery of concepts. PBL projects usually are implemented by a small student team with the teachers functioning as advisors or guides to the team to produce a final product. Projects can be designed around current curriculum standards and often include opportunities for advancing skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and oral and written presentations. PBL projects may take from several days to several months to complete and often culminate with a public presentation. This chapter both focuses on the educational theory that lies behind the use of PBLs.


  1. Albanese, M., & Mitchell, S. (1993). Problem-based learning: A review of literature on its outcomes and implementation issues. Academic Medicine, 68, 52–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkson, L. (1993). Problem-based learning: Have the expectations been met? Academic Medicine, 68(Suppl 10), S79–S88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, R. (1988). Group Processes. Dynamics within and between groups. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  4. Buck Institute for Education. (2019).
  5. Colliver, J. (2000). Effectiveness of problem-based learning curricula: Research and theory. Academic Medicine, 75, 259–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Davies, P. (2000). Approaches to evidence-based teaching. Medical Teacher, 22(1), 14–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  8. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillian.Google Scholar
  9. Dewey, J. (1981). The school and social progress. In J. McDermott (Ed.), The philosophy of John Dewey. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dochy, F., Segers, M., Van den Bossche, P., & Gijbels, D. (2003). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis. Learning and Instruction, 13, 533–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Foxfire Fund Inc. (2002). Foxfire mission. Mountain City, GA: Foxfire.Google Scholar
  12. Gijbels, D., Dochy, F., Van den Bossche, P., & Segers, M. (2005). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis from the angle of assessment. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 27–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hmelo-Silver, C. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark 2006. Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  17. Lewin, K. (1943). Defining the “Field at a Given Time.” Psychological Review, 50, 292–310.Google Scholar
  18. Next Generation Science Standards. (2017).
  19. Pease, M., & Kuhn, D. (2011). Experimental analysis of the effective components of problem-based learning. Science Education, 95, 57–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ravitch, D. (2000). A century of failed school reforms. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  21. Rogers, C. R. (1969). Freedom to learn (2nd ed., 358 p). C. E. Merritt Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-0675095792.Google Scholar
  22. Schmidt, H. G., Loyens, S. M. M., van Gog, T., & Paas, F. (2007). Problem-based learning is compatible with human cognitive architecture: Commentary on Kirschner, Sweller and Clark 2006. Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 91–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Starnes, B. A. (1999). The foxfire approach to teaching and learning: John Dewey, experiential learning, and the core practices. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.Google Scholar
  24. Starnes, B. A. (2000, February). On dark times, parallel universes, and de'ja'vu. Phi Delta Kappan.Google Scholar
  25. Starnes, B. A., Paris, C., & Stevens, C. (1999). The Foxfire core practices: Discussions and implications. Mountain City, GA: Foxfire.Google Scholar
  26. Ubben, G. (2005). MYOP, education for the neighborhood and the world. University of Tennessee.Google Scholar
  27. Vernon, D. T. A., & Blake, R. L. (1993). Does problem-based learning work? A meta-analysis of evaluative research. Academic Medicine, 68, 550–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Walker, A., & Leary, H. (2009). A problem-based-learning meta-analysis: Differences across problem types, implementation types, disciplines, and assessment levels. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 3(1), 12–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wigginton, E. (1986). Sometimes a shining moment: The foxfire experience. (Twenty years teaching in a high school classroom). New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  30. Wilford, A. (1942). The story of the eight year study. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  31. Wirkala, C., & Kuhn, D. (2011). Problem-based learning in K-12 education: is it effective and how does it achieve its effects? American Educational Research Journal, 48(5), 1157–1186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational LeadershipUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations