STEMwork Professional Learning Institute

Why Administrators Choose STEMwork

STEMwork is based on a clear set of design principles and the 2021-22 pilot is being thoroughly evaluated for outcomes, effectiveness, and fidelity of implementation by the Friday Institute for Educational Excellence at NC State University.

STEMwork Scholars participate in teams of approximately five each, facilitated by a trained Kenan Fellow alumnus from the region. As they progress through the program orientation, site visits, and sequence of lessons, they collaborate with team members and their facilitator to produce and implement a PBL unit that is relevant to their students and connected to a local business or industry.

“I have grown through the STEMwork feedback. It was very helpful to have another set of eyes on the planning process. I have also grown by seeing how I needed to differentiate instruction more than I anticipated with AIG students.”

2021 STEMwork Scholar

The Power of PBL

Research on Project-Based Learning (PBL) has shown the approach to yield numerous benefits, particularly in terms of student engagement and building competencies essential to college and career readiness. A number of studies have also provided evidence of growth in academic achievement.

In a study of students in high-poverty communities using PBL gains were 63% higher for social studies in the PBL group compared to the non-PBL classroom (Duke & Halvorsen, 2017).

A study of 8th graders who completed a unit on U.S. history showed significant gains in historical-thinking skills for students engaged in PBL as compared to those who did not (Hernandez-Ramos & De La Paz, 2009).

A study of 7th and 8th graders showed the PBL groups performed better on assessments of content knowledge than the non-PBL students (NCPEA Education Leadership Review of Doctoral Research, 2015).

A study looking at the impacts of PBL on how students learn math and science found that students who experienced PBL curriculum outperformed the control group (Mida Learning Technologies 2016).

Student Engagement & Essential Skills


Consistently across studies, findings indicate that project-based learning enhances student performance, motivation, student engagement, teacher/student interaction and 21st Century skills such as collaboration (Boaler, 1999).


A study with high school students found statistically significant evidence that supports PBL having a positive effect on the school attendance of economically disadvantaged students (Cregan, C. & Adair-Creghan, K. 2015).


In the future, children must enter a workforce in which they will be evaluated not only on their outcomes, but also on their collaborative, negotiating, planning, and organizational skills. By implementing PBL, we are preparing our students to meet the 21st century with preparedness and a repertoire of skills they can use successfully (Bell, 2010).

Bring STEMwork to Your School

Partner with the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership to train a STEMwork team in your school or district. STEMwork uses a collaborative funding model between schools and industry partners to support STEMwork Scholars. To learn more, contact Carrie Horton at or call 919-515-5118.