Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Julia Link Roberts (Chair), Dr. Mary Evans, Dr. Janet Tassell, Dr. Steven Wininger

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program


Copyright © 2011 by Tracy Ford InmanAll rights reserved

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


This study explored the effects of problem-based learning (PBL) on growth in both math achievement and science process skills within a sample of high potential and high ability students in grades 3 through 6, particularly students from low socio-economic (SES) backgrounds. Six elementary schools were assigned to one of three treatment groups: (a) PBL instruction in math and science in ability-grouped target classes and one-day-a-week magnet program; (b) PBL instruction in math and science in ability-grouped target classes; and (c) non-PBL instruction in math and science as a control group. Stemming from data gathered in Project GEMS (Gifted Education in Math and Science), a federally-funded grant through the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, the current study analyzed data over a two-year period with three assessments (Baseline, post-Year 1, and post-Year 2). Overall findings supported the use of PBL in science instruction for this population showing significant gains in science process skills for both treatment groups when compared to the control with a moderate effect size (η2 = .17). Results also indicated a significant interaction in growth in science process skills for SES, time, and treatment group. Students who qualified for free and/or reduced lunch in the magnet group saw significant gains in science each year of implementation; however,students who paid full price for lunch in the magnet group failed to demonstrate significant growth in science process skills from the first to second year. Although students from both SES groups had significant growth in science process skills growth from Baseline to Year 2, lower SES students also had significant growth from Year 1 to Year 2. These results suggested the importance of sustained implementation. Regarding math achievement, results revealed that all three treatment groups experienced significant gains over the two years of implementation, including the control group that received non-PBL instruction. Math achievement in control schools may have been affected by their participation in two grants that focused on professional development in math content and strategies. However, PBL treatment schools achieved significant growth in math achievement with fewer professional development hours indicating efficiency in PBL professional development. Achievement in the treatment schools could be attributed to PBL.


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Elementary Education and Teaching | Gifted Education