Applying Project-Based Learning in Engine Technology Program

Posted on Categories Academic/Technical Skill Integration, Project-based Learning, Student Engagement

At a Glance

Students in the Vehicle Maintenance Tech (Engine Technology) program apply their learning through working on real-world projects that are linked to Program of Study tasks.


In the Vehicle Maintenance Tech (Engine Technology) program at Chester County Technical College High School, the Pennsylvania Department of Education Program of Study (POS) curriculum is delivered through a project-based learning system that follows the Technology Centers That Work (TCTW) Enhanced Career and Technical Education (ECTE) assignments model. Rather than learning content in a traditional task-by-task style, students at all three grade levels work on real-world projects that they bring from home or are assigned by the instructor. Projects must resemble or replicate what would be encountered in the technical trade and must accommodate POS task instruction. Sample projects include rebuilding engines and repairing snowmobiles or garden tractors.

All projects are analyzed to identify POS tasks mastered through project completion. The project includes weekly assignments and a technical writing piece through which students are challenged to document and communicate their learning. The objective is to challenge students to stretch their thinking and to integrate and combine technical skills with academic skills including mathematics and communications to solve real world problems. Students directly apply what they are learning and explore knowledge and new information through research and cooperation.

Origin / Implementation

The Engine Technology instructor first introduced the project format to his students in mid-October 2014. He was interested in implementing innovative strategies to improve learning experiences for his students because he found that students were highly motivated when working on projects. He wanted to modify instruction to better accommodate student interest.

The Learning Support instructor, who had participated in the ECTE workshop offered during the 2013-2014 academic year through the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), recommended that the instructor formally incorporate the TCTW model into the student projects. The two instructors worked together to create project templates to help students implement a project timeline, set learning goals aligned with PA Core Standards and POS tasks, 21st Century Skills, as well as various formative and summative assessments. The TCTW Project Based Learning model was incorporated into the student projects in November 2014.

The student projects were completed over one marking period (45 days).

Results / Impact

Students became actively engaged in hands-on learning and referencing POS task performance criteria from technical resources. Their progress is documented through multiple formative and summative assessments included in their technical portfolio.

Based on classroom observation, students are showing signs of pride and ownership in their work and some students who were previously not engaged in learning are now motivated. Students are learning to independently structure their learning with the guidance of the instructor. They are also seeing connections with mathematics and program content; solving problems to fix engines.

Going forward, the instructor plans to modify his entire curriculum to incorporate project-based learning throughout the year.


Chester County Technical College High School, Pennocks Bridge Campus
Mike Katch, Principal