Problem-Based Learning Supporting Evidence

Several studies support the success of the constructivist problem-based and inquiry learning methods. One example is a study on a project called GenScope, an inquiry-based science software application, which found that students using the GenScope software showed significant gains over the control groups, with the largest gains shown in students from basic courses.

One large study tracked middle school students' performance on high-stakes standardized tests to evaluate the effectiveness of inquiry-based science. The study found a 14 percent improvement for the first cohort of students and a 13 percent improvement for the second cohort. The study also found that inquiry-based teaching methods greatly reduced the achievement gap for African-American students.

A systematic review of the effects of problem-based learning in medical school on the performance of doctors after graduation showed clear positive effects on physician competence. This effect was especially strong for social and cognitive competencies such as coping with uncertainty and communication skills.

Another study from Slovenia looked at whether students who learn with PBL are better at solving problems and if their attitudes towards mathematics were improved compared to their peers in a more traditional curriculum. The study found that students who were exposed to PBL were better at solving more difficult problems; however, there was no significant difference in student attitude towards mathematics.