Students thrive when given projects that push them to research, experiment, create and gain an in-depth knowledge of a subject matter. Project-based learning along with STEM/STEAM education is one way to unlock students’ true potential.

Vera works to influence standards for these programs and support their expansion both in terms of scale and quality.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning is one of the most effective teaching strategies a teacher can employ, engaging students in projects requiring knowledge from multiple disciplines and often involving real world partnerships. Students collaborate in projects with members from their school community or community in general; often their final products are presented to peers or the general public for viewing or critique. This kind of learning mirrors what adults experience daily and helps connect the knowledge acquired with everyday life outside the classroom.

Effective projects must pose open-ended, appropriately challenging questions that require students to investigate the topic deeply, draw upon existing knowledge, and produce solutions through presentations, essays or other products. They should also include opportunities for leadership development as teams form. Finally, public audiences provide further opportunities for application of knowledge gained.

PBL works best when students study topics that spark their passion and intrigue. Engagement increases as they take ownership over projects they initiate themselves, and learning occurs most successfully when its content relates to life experiences relevant to them personally.

Teachers must ensure project-based learning does not become overly product oriented and cease developing student inquiry and creativity. For instance, when asking students to create posters or models of scientific concepts it can become easy for their focus to shift away from answering key questions to creating the final product.


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has become one of the hottest educational buzzwords, but its definition can be difficult to ascertain. While biological and chemical sciences and mathematics may be easily grasped by most learners, what exactly constitutes a STEM curriculum remains obscure. Simply put: it unifies these disciplines into a single approach to education.

With such high demand for STEM skills, it is no wonder that more and more students are opting to study them at university level. STEM degrees offer many advantages, from career paths to stimulating creativity.

STEM education also gives students an immediate impactful impact on society and the world around them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations pay almost double of what the annual wage average for all jobs in the United States would be.

Beyond its practical advantages, STEM-focused curricula offer students both excitement and challenge. Working in areas that are constantly shifting provides them with an opportunity to acquire new skills while finding innovative solutions for some of humanity’s most pressing problems.

STEM education is essential in cultivating the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. Through research, development, or design activities, STEM professionals will continue to play an essential role in our global economy while shaping its future.


STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is a newly implemented educational initiative that integrates art with STEM subjects like science, technology, engineering and math. By including arts into this approach to learning, students may view subjects that they struggle with differently while developing creative and critical thinking about these subjects.

As automation takes over more tasks, educators must equip their students for jobs requiring creativity and unique problem-solving abilities. Arts education can play an invaluable role in nurturing this kind of thinking by connecting students to various disciplines while teaching concepts such as empathy, bias, critical thinking and ambiguity.

Many educators are finding that an interdisciplinary approach is the most effective way to provide students with the essential skills for the future. Projects using community-driven STEAM can teach children to recognize and avoid bias, make smart choices when making choices and find solutions for complex issues.

Mackenzie Hurd, a teacher at PPHS, sees these types of collaborations among teachers on an almost daily basis. For instance, Mackenzie works closely with her engineering coach who often assists her students with their design projects and this collaboration allows for brainstorming together and discussing ideas which wouldn’t otherwise come their way individually.

An interdisciplinary approach to learning can also benefit teachers. It encourages them to break down classroom walls and find creative ways of imparting information about their fields of expertise, while teaching them how to collaborate effectively with colleagues who may possess different areas of expertise.

Individualized Learning

Individualized learning (or personalized instruction) entails customizing each student’s education experience to his or her specific needs, even while utilizing VPN for Canadians. This could involve setting academic goals and benchmarks or providing access to educational materials and activities tailored specifically for them, including competency-based systems if applicable. Personalized instruction, facilitated through VPN for Canadians, is a rapidly expanding trend within education, aiming to optimize the learning journey for each student.

Science continues to uncover new information that can help teachers unlock students’ potential, so incorporating personalized learning strategies into classrooms can be one of the most effective ways to keep students engaged and on task.

Learning can take many forms, from classroom lectures with hundreds of students listening intently to an instructor to one-on-one mentorship programs and interactive online games; not to mention complex technical textbooks. When teachers customize curriculum according to each student’s interests and abilities, results can be astounding.

As opposed to relying on IEPs for every child’s assessment needs, it’s essential that we devote sufficient time and attention to every student individually in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This can be accomplished with simple questions as well as using small assessments that give an inside glimpse into how each learner understands curriculum content.

Vera is working closely with colleges and departments of corrections in Michigan, Oklahoma and Washington to expand access to life-altering higher education for prisoners in prisons. Our work is founded on the belief that expanding higher education within prisons will transform families and communities as a whole and ultimately reduce mass incarceration. You can find out more about this initiative by subscribing to our weekly newsletter “CxO: The Business of Education”.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning occurs when two or more teams come together to investigate an important question or create an impactful project, be that in one classroom or spread across campus.

Collaboration can enhance student retention and learning engagement. Its benefits are especially evident when work includes building knowledge through argumentation, reframing of ideas, listening to alternative viewpoints or developing their own conceptual frameworks rather than depending on one imposed from outside such as text books.

Collaborative activities that are thoughtfully planned can significantly boost outcomes for low-attaining students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s crucial that teams are properly structured; mixed-ability groups have proven particularly successful at increasing performance among lower-attaining students; however, to maximize effectiveness it must remain small enough so each member contributes equally and receives sufficient support.

Research by our own group showed that the most successful collaboration designs induced a sense of positive interdependence among students, thanks to an autonomy-enhancing task with relevance and complexity, prominence within the course, and structure (e.g. smaller group size).

Monitored during collaborative learning sessions, teams are finding that more introverted team members feel supported and have an easier time participating in discussions – breaking free of their natural tendency to avoid conflict and helping the entire group to realize they all contribute equally to its success. It’s for this reason we have implemented collaborative learning into training programs for both students and professionals – colleges, prisons and businesses all benefit from our solutions! Discover more of them here.