A Successful Method: Project-Based Learning in a Blended Environment


Katherine Anderson
Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 11:00am

The Evergreen Education Group's series "Research: Outcomes of Blended/Online Learning Programs," takes an in-depth look at successful blended and online programs across the nation examining the best practices that have created tangible results. We are pleased to share with you some highlights from the Method Schools of Murrieta portion of this series.

Method of Success

Quality online instruction, project-based learning, extensive student performance data, and dedicated teachers combine to create a bright future for Method Schools of Murrieta, a charter school in Southern California. There are also Method School campuses in Arcadia and San Diego. Murrieta is a community of approximately 400,000 located between Los Angeles and San Diego. The Murrieta campus opened in August 2014 and serves 75 students in grades K–12.

During its 2015–2016 school year, Method Schools of Murrieta has shown a 40 percent increase in math scores and a 50 percent increase in reading scores, according to student performance on STAR Assessments. More than 70 percent of the students from the 2014–2015 school year re-enrolled in the fall of 2015. 

One student at the Murrieta campus achieved almost two years of academic growth during her first year of attendance, and states that "working at my own pace, being in small classes, and getting to know my teachers and other students well helped me achieve strong academic results."

Project-Based Learning & Online Learning

Method Schools combine online learning with projects and teachers who know each student’s needs. Students analyze real-world problems while working on projects that integrate math and science or English and history. The principal, Dr. Jessica Venezia, explains, "The value of project-based learning is that students acquire and apply new knowledge in an authentic, problem-solving context."

Project-based learning (PBL) is the instructional strategy Method Schools uses to ensure learning is relevant, interesting, and challenging. By challenging students to answer meaningful questions about real-world problems, PBL provides relevance that increases engagement and retention of the content. Method teachers also believe that PBL provides increased opportunities to use technology to connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world, and to find resources and information related to each project. Students report they like the projects, especially the group projects.

All Method students take online courses from Fuel Education. Method teachers teach all online courses; the one exception is that Fuel Education instructors teach the online second-year language courses. When students are on campus, they work on their projects, study online, and participate in Focused Direct Instruction (FDI) sessions, which are small group discussions, demonstrations, or lectures, lasting no more than 20 minutes. Method teachers use a variety of student performance data to dynamically group students into FDI sessions.

Six Successful Best Practices

Methods School of Murrieta principal, Dr. Venezia, points to six best practices that make the school and their students successful:

  • Initial assessment of students: We need to know exactly where to place a student to maximize the probability the student will be successful.
  • Collecting student performance data: We use growth charts to document successes and intervene with a new strategy if a student is not progressing. We use data to set benchmarks and identify students for FDI sessions.
  • Oral assessments: Our teachers frequently talk with students to determine if the data from the online assessments reflect actual student performance.
  • FDI sessions: Teachers discuss one topic, with no more than eight students, for no more than 20 minutes, to either to clarify misunderstandings or elaborate on the topic.
  • Project-based learning: Tying authentic projects to instructional content helps students contextualize the content and make it meaningful.
  • Student-teacher interactions: Whether online or on-campus, students and teachers communicate daily. They talk about the content, the projects, the student’s personal life, the student’s assessments, and the student’s online work. Students know their teacher is there for them and willing to help them in any way possible.

Download the full Evergreen case studies series to learn more about Method School of Murrieta!  


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