Beyond changing culture in small high schools: Reform models and PBL
The following article appeared in a special issue of the Peabody Journal of Education on “Transforming the American High School: The Premise and Promise of Small Learning Communities”
This study describes the status of small school reforms in U.S. high schools and contemplates their future. It asks how cultural and instructional reforms differ across school reform types. Analyses focus on indicators of teacher and student culture as well as instructional reforms including project- based learning (PBL) and other inquiry-related practices. Findings are based on data from a national survey completed by 395 high school teachers who were responsible for and had used PBL in core academic subjects. Study participants taught in large, comprehensive high schools; in schools that had converted to small learning communities; and in newly created small school start-ups. Some of these small schools and conversions were based on a reform model, and others were not.
Teachers in reform model schools reported the greatest number of cultural and instructional reforms, followed by teachers in other small schools. Reform models were particularly strong on instructional reforms and student culture. In general, start-up teachers reported more success implementing reforms than teachers in conversion schools, and teacher culture was reformed much more often than student culture and instruction. These findings help shed light on how widely practices and conditions have spread throughout the broader small schools movement, and which of these (including extensive PBL use) only seem to flourish in schools that subscribe to a holistic reform model.
Ravitz, J. (2010). Beyond changing culture in small high schools: Reform models and changing instruction with project-based learning. Peabody Journal of Education, 85(3), 290-313.
Some of these findings were presented in a conference paper.
Ravitz, J. (2009). Does project based learning help foster communities of learners in small US high schools? Paper presented to the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction conference. Amsterdam, NL. August, 2009.