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The Portfolio School Will Build a Project-Based Learning Platform with Support from J.W. Couch

By Henry Kronk
July 30, 2019

The Portfolio School on July 29 announced they had entered into partnership with JW Couch to develop an online platform dedicated to helping schools and teachers adopt project-based learning. The platform will be known as Project ScaleUp and is intended to help teachers bring their class through projects in school.

The New York-based Portfolio School aligns their teaching strategy around project-based learning. The pedagogy emphasizes ‘learning by doing,’ and involves applying a range of classroom subjects to a project.

Last year, for example, eLearning Inside heard from John Zingale, who teaches social studies at Vancouver iTech Preparatory in Washington. He had just brought his class through a months-long project that created a virtual library of historic artifacts from the nearby Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Connecting the Dots with Project-Based Learning

Project ScaleUp is intended to help teachers who might not have the capacity or know-how get up to speed with project-based learning. The platform is expected to include a library of ‘maps’ detailing various projects, what topics they introduce, the grade levels for which they’re appropriate, and the required nuts and bolts.

“With ScaleUp, teachers around the world will have access to Portfolio’s research-based project design process as well as a growing body of project ideas,” says Babur Habib, Portfolio School’s Co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “It will remove the barrier to entry for lots of teachers and homeschool educators, and help Portfolio School increase our impact beyond our classrooms.”

The JW Couch Foundation, which was established in memory of Jesse W. Couch, maintains a focus on investing in social entrepreneurs. One area of focus is startups centered around ‘Teachers, Early Childhood, and 21st Century Skills.”

“The kind of innovation we see at Portfolio School would not be possible without the remarkable projects that have been crafted by the team there,” says Sean Couch, President of the JW Couch Foundation, in a statement. “We’re proud to support Portfolio School and help kickstart Project ScaleUp so that more educators and students can reap the benefits. Millions could potentially get access to the ScaleUp platform, and communities will better understand how this is the future of education.”

The Pedagogy Is Popular–But Not Necessarily Well-Understood

Many point to education reformer John Dewey as the originator of what would become project-based learning. In his 1897 publication My Pedagogical Creed, he advocated for ‘learning by doing.’

In the text, Dewey writes, “The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these.”

The pedagogy has been studied, and many have found it to lead to positive outcomes, but much of this research does not lend itself to drawing broad conclusions.

In their 2016 review of research on project-based learning, Dimitra Kokotsaki and Victoria Menzies write, “Most of the reviewed studies did not involve random allocation of participants to control and experimental groups and, as a result, a causal link between project-based learning instruction and positive student outcomes cannot be established with certainty.”

Featured Image: Jo Szczepanska, Unsplash.