Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ed.D.)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

James Campbell

Second Advisor

Barbara Cozza

Third Advisor

Katherine Aquino


This qualitative phenomenological case study explored the experiences of three middle school social studies teachers as they implemented a unit of instruction using project-based learning (PBL) in their eighth grade, social studies classrooms. Middle school is often where we see student engagement significantly diminishing and national scores on reading, writing and mathematics declining; the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this. PBL, as an instructional methodology that promotes hands-on learning and a strong connection between the classroom and the outside world, and first introduced in the early 1900s by John Dewey and William Kilpatrick, may help to stem the pandemic’s effects that have compounded a further loss in student engagement and overall learning loss. The participants in this research study teach at three different schools in a large, urban school district in the Northeast in which achievement and student engagement are low. The study was conducted as students and teachers returned to school during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research study is provides a phenomenological case study of teacher perceptions about the effectiveness of project-based learning in an urban, middle school environment. The study’s participants implemented a unit of study in their U.S. History classes using PBL as the main instructional methodology over the course of four weeks. This study focused on the participants’ perceptions before, during and after implementation. The results of this study can be used to inform researchers, education policy makers, and school district leaders on the effectiveness of PBL in increasing student engagement.

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