Fall 2021


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Laura Halldin

Content Expert

Nancy Bjornson


The rise in immigration to the United States in recent years has led to an increase in linguistic and racial diversity in schools. As a result, students with lower levels of English proficiency are often neglected in the classroom. I learned in my studies at Hamline University that the result of this is what Gloria Ladson-Billings (2006) calls the “opportunity gap.” Teaching in India for many years, I incorporated various projects to make content comprehensible. Project based learning increases participation and understanding. Through my capstone project, I wanted to create the possibility of a more active learning environment for my ELLs in the United States. This capstone project paper is called Project Based Learning as a Teaching and Learning Method for Middle School ELLs. I also created an Understanding by Design (UbD) PBL Curriculum for Middle School ELLs which addresses the question: How effective is Project Based Learning (PBL) for improving the achievement and engagement of Middle School English Language Learners (ELLs) over the traditional teaching and learning methods? The projects I created increase ELL engagement, and provide foundations for the development of academic language. The project includes three UbD unit plans aligned to MN state standards and follows best practices for PBL. Additionally, the project focuses on best practices for ELLs, with the success of all students in mind. A key influence for my project was the Buck Institute for Education (n.d.), which states that real-world and personally meaningful projects engage students most in learning. PBL is helpful for all students to deepen their understanding through authentic, hands-on projects. Another key influence was Boss and Krauss (2014), who define PBL as a strategy which turns traditional classrooms “upside down.” In PBL, teachers’ roles shift away from content-experts and towards facilitators, and students pursue their own questions to solve problems, make meaning, and increase higher-order thinking.

Project Type



Curriculum, ESL/ ELLs, Motivation, Teachers/ Teaching








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