This Project-based learning (PBL) is gaining increasing prominence as an educational pedagogy for enhancing students’ key future competences - communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, referred to as the 4Cs. However, according to the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013 report, the proportion of PBL classes in Korean middle schools is the lowest among 31 countries being surveyed (mainly OECD countries). Moreover, the lowest proportion of PBL classes in Korea can explain much of the fact that teacher self-efficacy and student life satisfaction in Korea are very low compared to other OECD countries.
We in partnership with Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education, assisted two middle schools (treatment group) in implementing PBL programs during the second semester of 2015. Then, we use a differences-in-differences analysis to measure the changes in students’ communication and collaboration skills compared to those of their counterparts in three neighboring schools within as 2 km radius (control group) over the same period. The baseline survey for 678 students of 7th grade among 5 middle schools was conducted in the beginning of the second semester of 2015 (August 24th-28th) and we re-surveyed 98.2% students (666 students) at the end of the semester (December 21st-24th).
Due to the difficulties in measuring communication and collaboration skills, we used standard methods on network and behavioral economics in order to correctly gauge each skill. For communication skill, students were asked to list their three best classmates. With this friendship network information in the classroom, we mainly analyze the following four statistics: 1) the proportion of those who were not chosen as a friend, 2) the probability that friendship is mutual between myself and my friend, 3) the number of subgroups who are separated from their peers, 4) the average path length of how many friends, on average, have to be connected for one to be a friend of another. As for collaboration skill, we use the dictator game and the public goods game in order to measure students’ way of caring for and collaborating with others to handle the situation in which their personal interests were in conflict with the interests of the entire class or another classmate.
We find positive impact of PBL program on some of communication skill dimensions despite the fact that the intervention period of this study is relatively short (one semester). For collaboration skill, the treatment group invested 8%p more in the public goods game than the control group whereas no significant difference was observed in the dictator game. One-semester PBL program was not enough to enhance students’ unconditional altruism (measured by the dictator game) but did improve the level of mutual trust and collaboration for the common good (measured by the public goods game). Meanwhile, there were no significant negative effects on academic performance on Korean, Math, English, and Science.