Summer 2018


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Melissa Erickson

Content Expert

Erin Lange


This research project addresses the question, how can Project-Based Learning (PBL) be adapted to enhance middle school social studies lessons and learning outcomes for English Language Learners and other struggling students? It reviews theory and practice for middle-school social studies teachers to invite ELLs and others reading below grade level into authentic PBL. Supports for PBL should include effective language acquisition scaffolds like Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) and content engagement through non-text, multimedia strategies like Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to invite students into deeper critical thinking and rigorous collaborative projects. Research connections are made to constructivist theories of Dewey and Kilpatrick, social learning theories of Vygotsky, language acquisition theories of Krashen, Project-Based Learning design of Boss, Larmer, and Misco, culturally-relevant teaching of Ladson-Billings and Milner, and VTS implementation of Housen and Yenawine. Findings were that educators can use scaffolding for ELLs in PBL work along with structured roles and routines, small group work, and modeling as needed to facilitate research, writing, and critical discussion. PBL with ELL scaffolds increases literacy and language acquisition because it engages students to solve problems using social learning using both academic and common English. Other outcomes include gains in critical thinking skills, cultural literacy, writing skills, and student self-concept.

Project Type

Website Creation


Curriculum, Developmentally Appropriate Practice, ESL/ ELLs, Literacy, Multicultural Education, Teachers/ Teaching

Included in

Education Commons