Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Project-Based Learning: Merging Rigor and Relevance to Increase Student Engagement

Ashley M Craft, Robert M Capraro


Increasing rigor and keeping students engaged in the classroom has become essential in the education of today’s youth. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) project-based learning (PBL) has increasingly become more popular in education today as the demand for collaborative problem solvers increases in the job market. STEM PBL is an instructional method that blends rigor and relevance by providing the means to connect relevant real-world situations while maintaining high expectations of student achievement and increasing engagement. In order to study the effects of STEM PBL on student engagement, a quasi-experimental design was used. Quantitative data from the three focus groups were collected to assess student engagement within a STEM PBL classroom compared to a non-STEM PBL classroom. An exploratory factor analysis was preformed to more closely examine the 8 engagement structures and resulted in the creation of two higher order factors, (1) academic engagement (AE) and (2) behavioral engagement (BE). The results can be used to verify that there exists an improvement in student academic engagement between the intervention groups, comparing traditional mathematics lessons verses STEM PBL lessons. The results showed that the academic rigor and relevance provided through STEM PBL lessons increase students’ academic engagement.


mathematics achievement; project-based learning; rigor; relevance; STEM; student engagement

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